Average life expectancy in England increased by 5.4 years between 1990-2013 but if you live in the North West you can expect to live years less than the wealthiest in the country.

The findings come from a new Public Health England study published in The Lancet that ranks the diseases and risk factors that cause death and disability in England.

The study found that if the healthiest region of England, the south-east, were a country it would top a league of 22 industrialised nations for its health outcomes. But if the north-west were a country, it would be in the bottom five.

The increase from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.3 years in 2013 mainly because of falls in the death rate from cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some cancers (with progress partly offset by increased death rates from liver disease).

Improvements in life expectancy haven’t been matched by improvements in levels of ill-health. So, as a population we’re living longer but spending more years in ill-health, often with a combination of conditions, some of which would have previously been fatal. For example, with diabetes, the years of life lost to the disease have decreased by 56% but years living with disability have increased by over 75%.

While the wealthiest 20 per cent of men in the East of England can expect to live to 83.1 years, and women 86.4, the most deprived 20 per cent of men in the north-west have an average life expectancy of just 74.9, with women at 79.5 years.

Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer, Public Health England, said:

“The findings show the huge opportunity for preventive public health. If levels of health in the worst performing regions in England matched the best performing ones, England would have one of the lowest burdens of disease of any developed country.”

Adding that 

“even though there have been big falls in premature mortality, the top causes of early deaths in England and in each English region are still heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which to a greater or lesser extent, are attributable to preventable risk factors.”

While Dr Adam Briggs, co-author and Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow, University of Oxford, said:

“Life expectancy is increasing across the country but large inequalities still remain. Life expectancy in 2013 for those living in the most deprived areas was still lower than those in less deprived areas enjoyed in 1990. How deprived you are is the key driver of these differences rather than where you live and therefore deprivation and its causes need to be tackled wherever they occur.”


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