Men’s life expectancy in the UK has declined for the first time since current records began 40 years ago due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
A boy born between 2018 and 2020 is expected to live to age 79, up from 79.2 for 2015-17, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is the first time that there has been a drop when comparing non-overlapping time periods since research began in the early 1980s.
Estimates for women are broadly unchanged, with a girl born in 2018-2020 likely to live 82.9 years, as in 2015-2017
Pamela Cobb, ONS Center for Aging and Demography, said: “Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the past 40 years, although at a slower pace over the past decade. However, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more deaths than normal in 2020.
“Therefore, in the latest estimates, we see virtually no improvement in life expectancy for women, while for men, life expectancy has fallen back to the levels reported for 2012 to 2014.”
Comparable data on life expectancy begins in 1980-82, when a newborn male was expected to live 70.8 years and a female 76.8 years.
However, the latest numbers don’t mean that a baby born between 2018 and 2020 will necessarily have a shorter life.
“These estimates are based on the assumption that current levels of mortality, which are unusually high, will continue for the rest of someone’s life,” Cobb said.
“Once the coronavirus pandemic is over and its consequences on future mortality are known, it is possible that life expectancy will return to an improving trend in the future. “
The new estimates also show variations between the UK’s four countries.
Male life expectancy fell in England from 79.5 years in 2015-2017 to 79.3 years in 2018-2, and in Scotland from 77 to 76.8 years.
But it edged up in Northern Ireland from 78.4 to 78.7, while remaining broadly unchanged in Wales at 78.3.
For women, life expectancy fell in Wales from 82.3 to 82.1 and in Scotland from 81.1 to 81. In Northern Ireland, the figure increased slightly from 82.3 to 82, 4 and remained essentially flat in England at 83.1.
Across England, the ONS said there were “significant reductions” in male life expectancy at birth in most areas, with drops of nearly four months in the north. east of England and Yorkshire / Humber and three months in the West Midlands and North West of England. .
In contrast, there has been an increase of just over a month for men in the southwest of England, hit by the pandemic in 2020, with the region recording male Covid-19 death rates and women inferior to those in other parts of the country.
The south-west of England has also recorded fewer additional deaths, or ‘excess deaths’, than elsewhere, as well as a lower proportion of its total death toll involving Covid-19.
For the female population, the largest regional declines in life expectancy were recorded in the West Midlands and Yorkshire / Humber. In the South West of England, there has been a “significant increase” of four months.