Call for urgent action as figures show Cambridgeshire people suffer more years of ill health in old age
Babies born in Cambridgeshire face more than a dozen years of poor health in later life, figures reveal.
With people across the UK now expected to live longer in ill health, experts have called for “urgent action” to reverse the trend.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that girls born in Cambridgeshire between 2016 and 2018 have an average life expectancy of 84.3 years – above the UK average of 82.9.
But their healthy life expectancy is 66.7, meaning they will spend an anticipated 17.6 years struggling with their well-being.
Healthy life expectancy is partly based on a survey in which people are asked about their general health.
People who answer that it is “very good” or “good” are classed as having good health, while those answering “fair”, “bad” or “very bad” have poorer health.
Boys born in the area between 2016 and 2018 have an average life expectancy of 81.2 years, and can expect to live 64.3 of those in good health on average.
That leaves 16.8 years they would spend in worse health.
The time that women can expect to live in poorer health has risen since 2009 to 2011 – by an average of 1.4 years – while for men the time went up by 0.7 years.
The picture in Cambridgeshire broadly reflects that across the UK, where the amount of time spent in poorer health increased for both sexes over the period.
Angus Hanton, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, which promotes intergenerational fairness, said: “Unless urgent action is taken, we could be consigning children born today, and particularly those from more deprived areas, to longer periods of ill health in old age.
“This is preventable but it needs commitment from the new government to prioritise funding.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said older women are more likely than men to be living on a low income, and could be hit hard by difficulties accessing social care.
She added: “It’s vital that everyone in later life has access to the support and information they need to stay well in retirement, wherever they happen to live.”
Across the UK, average life expectancy at birth for men in 2016-18 was 79.3, while healthy life expectancy was 63.1 years.
Women were expected to live 82.9 years, 63.6 of them in good health.
The estimated time men are expected to be in poorer health increased by around half a year from 2009 2011, and almost three-quarters of a year for women.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "We are committed to reducing the gap in life expectancy by 2035 and our NHS Long Term Plan, backed by an extra £33.9 billion in cash terms a year by 2023-24, puts tackling health inequalities at its heart."
More by this authorSarah Cliss