Life expectancy gap between men and women closing

Life expectancy gap between men and women closing

Men are beginning to outlive women for the first time as they change their lifestyles to drop unhealthy habits, new figures have revealed.

Men who have quit smoking and are taking more care of their health in middle age is believed to have boosted their life expectancy. 

While women adopting unhealthy habits, such as binge drinking, that were once only thought of for men may also be taking its toll.

Currently more than 800,000 people live in areas where life expectancy forecasts predict men to live longer than their female counterparts.

In one area of West Sussex men are expected living 13 years longer than women.

In nine other areas they are thought likely to outlive females by between two and a half and five and a half years, while there are more than 36 regions where men are living at least a year longer.

The projections, produced by Public Health England, are thought to be the first time the trend has been recorded in the country.

Les Mayhew, an adviser to the Office for National Statistics, said the incredible gain was to do with new lifestyles adopted by men.

“There is a long-running trend since the 1970s for male life expectancy to catch up with female, and in some areas they have now caught or surpassed it.

“The figures show which areas are in the lead for this phenomenon, but the gain for male life expectancy is to do with the lifestyle of the men living there rather than something unusual about the geographical location.”

He added that men in higher areas tend to be better educated and have the best work prospects.

Experts believe women’s life expectancy is not increasing at the same rate as a combination of taking on the stress of full-time work – often at the same time as looking after parents or children – joins an unhealthy lifestyle.

Women are now more likely to smoke and binge drink alcohol and are also being diagnosed with traditional ‘male’ illnesses such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

The latest findings, from Public Health England for 2006 to 2010, show men living in the affluent west London areas of Ladbroke Grove, Sloane Street and Belgravia had the second biggest gap in longevity.

There, men tend to live to 93 and women only to 87.5 – a difference of five and a half years.

The number one areas for men outliving women are the Crawley suburbs of Bewbush and Broadfield, West Sussex, where men are expected to reach an impressive 96-years-old.

But women are only predicted to live until 83.

But the mix of middle-class homes and more deprived housing estates, means experts are struggling to explain the vast difference between results – although it is though a small sample size may have affected the area’s results.

The figures confirm a trend portrayed in the last census that, while the population is ageing overall, the number of men surviving well into old age is growing faster than the number of women doing so.

Prof John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, said: “Despite this welcome overall increase, profound inequalities in life expectancy persist across the country, between men and women and between the most and least deprived areas.

“The evidence is clear – a person’s likelihood of dying early varies widely between areas due to differences in risk factors such as being overweight, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, but these factors are also closely linked to economic deprivation and other aspects of the way we live that may be beyond an individual’s control.

“If we are to change the current pattern of early mortality many different public agencies need to work together with industry and local people to create healthy communities and healthy places to live across the whole country.”

Despite the statistics however, and a growing trend for the opposite, women in England are still generally expected to live longer than men.

The average life expectancy remains 82.9 years for women and 78.9 for men, but the gap has been closing since it peaked at 5.7 years in 1969.