Life - Articles - Latest life expectancy figures and pension survey from ONS

The ONS have released the latest national life tables, exploring life expectancies in the UK using data for the period 2018 to 2020 – the first national life tables to include data from during the COVID-19 pandemic. they have also published their latest Financial Survey of Pension Schemes.

 Life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2018 to 2020 was 79.0 years for men and 82.9 years for women; a drop of 17 and 10 weeks for men and women respectively from that observed during 2017 to 2019.

 Life expectancy at age 65 in the UK in 2018 to 2020 was 18.5 years for men and 21.0 years for women; a drop of 12 and 8 weeks for men and women respectively from that observed during 2017 to 2019.

 Other data published by ONS today shows continued local inequality in life expectancy. Glasgow City has the lowest life expectancy at birth (73.1 years for men and 78.3 years for women for 2018-2020). Even at the start of the millennium the best performing local areas exceeded this by 6 years (Hart for men at 79.9 years; Kensington & Chelsea for women at 84.3 years; data for 2001-2003).

 The current league toppers are Westminster for men (84.7 years) and Kensington & Chelsea for women (87.9 years).

 Commenting on the impact of the pandemic, Steven Baxter, head of innovation & development at Club Vita, notes: “It is important to consider the bigger picture when considering the life expectancies in the latest tables. The inclusion of 2020 data will take account of the large number of COVID related deaths but won’t consider any “bounce-back” to lower mortality levels that may be around the corner as we emerge from the pandemic. Immediately after the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, we saw life expectancy plummet, only to revert back to more normal levels the following year. We will need to keep a close eye on the emerging 2021 and 2022 data to see whether it will be a similar story following our generation’s 1 in 100-year global pandemic.”

 Commenting on life expectancy inequality, Steven Baxter, head of innovation & development at Club Vita, notes: “The parallel publication of changes in life expectancy at the regional level highlight the gap between the rich and poor areas of the UK has widened since 2000. Health inequality continues to grow in the UK. What is not obvious from these statistics is the impacts of the pandemic on those at opposite ends of the deprivation spectrum. The pandemic risks widening these inequalities. Whilst the first wave of the pandemic was agnostic to individual’s circumstance, there is growing evidence from monitoring of monthly deaths with our dataset, and in analysis from the ONS, that the second and third waves have had a disproportionate loss of life in the more deprived areas.”

 Commenting on the implication for pension schemes, Mark Sharkey, head of client delivery at Club Vita, comments: “We need to look past the headlines to gain meaningful insights on pensioner life expectancy. It will be important to understand the bespoke socioeconomic mix of a pension scheme’s membership and compare this with the emerging evidence on how the pandemic has impacted these individuals, rather than the general population. It is likely that the lingering after-effects of the pandemic will have a greater influence on life expectancy, and therefore liabilities, than the 2020 and 2021 COVID deaths alone.

 The outlook is finely balanced. There are factors which may cause pension schemes to be more pessimistic about the future e.g. the economic impact of COVID and the disruption to certain cancer cares. But there are also reasons for optimism e.g. the advances in mRNA technology with applications well beyond COVID. Those responsible for pension scheme risk management should be scanning the horizon for an early indication of which way the tide is turning.”

 National Life Tables - life expectancy in the UK: 2018 to 2020

 Financial Survey of Pension Schemes: Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2021

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