By Cindy Moy, founder of mySysters
My great-grandfather died a few weeks shy of his 105th birthday.
His longevity and tenacity was legendary in our small town.
My great-grandmother died at the age of 91.
They had three sons who lived to the ages of 92, 82—and 47.
Their grandchildren had life spans ranging from two years to 94 years and counting.
If the only guarantees in life are death and taxes, is there any way to know how long you’ll live?
LET’S DO THE MATH
The UK Office for National Statistics provides this handy calculator to find out your life expectancy and your odds of living to 100 years old:
According to the Office for National Statistics, better health care and improvements in living and working conditions over the last 40 years have led to an increase in life expectancy in the UK, with the current ages being 79.0 years for males and 82.9 years for females.
Yes, these numbers reflect the higher mortality rates caused by the pandemic.
A COUNTRY DIVIDED
However, these are the median ages for the UK as a WHOLE.
Your life expectancy changes depending on WHERE you live in the UK.
For those born in 2018 to 2020 in ENGLAND,life expectancy is 79.3 years for males and 83.1 years for females.
For those born in 2018 to 2020 in NORTHERN IRELAND, life expectancy is 78.7 years for males and 82.4 years for females.
For those born in 2018 to 2020 in WALES, life expectancy is 78.3 years for males and 82.1 years for females.
For those born in 2018 to 2020 in SCOTLAND, life expectancy is 76.9 years for males and 81.0 years for females.
Well. This is awkward. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
NOT QUITE WHAT IT SEEMS
Looking at mortality and longevity data in England in ultra-fine detail is exactly what researchers at the Imperial College London (ICL) School of Health did for the years 2002 to 2019—in other words BEFORE the pandemic.
The research looked more than 8.6 million records and assigned them to the community where each person lived at the time of their death.
They found the life expectancy was DECLINING in increasing numbers of communities in England in the ten years BEFORE the pandemic due to inequalities in health, economic and social policies.
Most alarming, this gap in life expectancy varied by almost THIRTY (30) YEARS!
Male life expectancy in London’s Kensington and Chelsea is 95.3 years, compared to 68.3 years in Blackpool.
Female life expectancy in London’s Camden is 95.4 years, compared to 74.4 years in Leeds.
Which other communities are seeing this vast gap?
Predominantly northern communities, such as Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, and Blackpool.
(see the study here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(21)00205-X/fulltext) )
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
“That’s the plan, you know,” my taxi driver tells me one rainy Sunday in Newcastle. “They want to kill us all off before they have to pay us what they owe us.”
‘They’ is the UK government and he’s on a rant about certain government officials and how they want everyone outside of London to die as soon as possible after leaving employment.
I let him carry on, in part because it’s entertaining and in part because he has a point.
“These data show that longevity has been getting worse for years in large parts of England,” says senior author Professor Majid Ezzati, from ICL’s School of Public Health.
“Declines in life expectancy used to be rare in wealthy countries like the UK, and happened when there were major adversities like wars and pandemics. For such declines to be seen in ‘normal times’ before the pandemic is alarming, and signals ongoing policy failures to tackle poverty and provide adequate social support and health care.”
Let’s think about this a moment.
What’s more likely—that the government is completely unaware of this life expectancy gap, or they’re aware of it and are CHOOSING to do nothing about it?
SHY BAIRNS GET NOWT
The socioeconomic factors at play here are complex, but there are people and organizations outside of London willing to take on this challenge in innovative ways.
The question is whether we’ll be giVen the opportunity and resources to do so, or will the status quo win out?
The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cindy Moy Carr is the founder and CEO of Vorsdatter Limited which created mySysters, the first app for women in perimenopause. Cindy is an attorney, journalist and author, including the ABA’s Guide to Healthcare Law.