Life Expectancy Decline Hits Economy and Workforce

Life expectancy for people aged over 50 has started to fall, new research from the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC) reveals

The think tank finds that changes to the health and life expectancy of people over 50 will have a significant impact on the economy. The fall in healthy life expectancy will result in more people dropping out of work earlier than anticipated.

The analysis conducted by Professor Les Mayhew, Associate Director of Global Health ILC-UK and Professor of Statistics at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass), shows that:

  • Life expectancy for fifty-year-olds is now 2.3 years less than it would have been had the long-established trend continued.
  • Every year of lost life expectancy results in 2.6 years less spent in good health.
  • A UK man dying at age 80 could expect to spend on average 64.5 years in good health, but if his life expectancy is only 78, he will spend less than 60 years in good health.

ILC point out that a fall in life expectancy is generally preceded by a period of ill health which can vary in length according to pre-existing health conditions, age and other factors.

Previous ILC analysis had suggested that demographic change will drive a 2.6 million shortfall of paid workers by 2030.

Professor Les Mayhew, ILC’s Associate Head of Global Research and Professor of Statistics at Bayes Business School said: “There are more of us over 50 than ever before but more of our lives are being curtailed or blighted by ill health. This is bad news for us as individuals but also for the economy.”

“Avoidable ill health costs the UK hundreds of billions of pounds every year. An unhealthy lifestyle is strongly associated with avoidable disability and economic inactivity as well as leading to increased pressure on the NHS and dependence on social services.”

“However, further stagnation in positive life expectancy trends should not be inevitable.  We can get back on track with targeted support to help people make healthy choices and more investment in preventing ill health.”

David Sinclair, ILC’s Chief Executive said: “Addressing the mid-life health crisis needs to be a priority for Government. 25 million of us are aged over 50 so a fall in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy will have a huge economic impact.

The health service is already struggling with the number of people waiting for treatment increasing from 2.5million in 2010 to 7.5million today.

We need to prioritise prevention and give more people access to occupational health, with services provided alongside jobcentre plus.

Our economy needs us to be healthy so the Government must use tax and regulation to encourage healthy behaviours.”