13.06.2024

A stretched NHS, Covid and unhealthy lifestyles are to blame for people dying earlier

Life expectancy for older people has fallen by two years in just a decade, say experts. A toxic combination of an increasingly stressed NHS, fallout from the pandemic and unhealthy lifestyles is to blame, they believe.

The fall bucks a long-term trend in which life expectancy had risen rapidly year after year – and raises the possibility it has now peaked. For some experts fear the obesity epidemic is at last catching up with us. But optimists think the setbacks are temporary and lifespans will start rising again in a few years.

Men aged 65 in 2012 could expect a retirement lasting 23.5 years, according to analysts. Women of the same age could look forward to 26 more years of life.

But, according to an update to be published next month, today’s 65-year-old men are only likely to live on average another 21.5 years, and women 24 more years.

A toxic combination of an increasingly stressed NHS, fallout from the pandemic and unhealthy lifestyles is to blame, they believe

A toxic combination of an increasingly stressed NHS, fallout from the pandemic and unhealthy lifestyles is to blame, they believe

Stuart McDonald, head of longevity at health analysts LCP, said: ‘This is a large fall by historical standards.’

He said analysts believed the ‘delayed effects of the pandemic’ – with seriously ill people inundating the NHS because they had not received the care they needed over the last three years – could last a considerable time.

Food expert Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at Oxford University, said: ‘The rising prevalence of obesity will certainly be contributing to declining life expectancy. This is compounded by the emergence of excess weight at younger ages, such that people are overweight for longer and so accumulating greater metabolic harm.’

The figures are from estimates produced yearly by actuaries as part of the Continuous Mortality Investigation. These are used to calculate pension annuity rates.

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘Actuaries have known for a decade that obesity was a ticking timebomb. The timebomb has exploded.’

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