Northern Ireland among areas at 'bottom of league table' for improved life expectancy

New research has shown a slump in life expectancy rates

LIFE expectancy rates in Northern Ireland have slowed down dramatically, with new research showing the least improved outcomes for pensioners.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) examined 20 countries and found the UK was "at the bottom of the table" in terms of people living longer between 2011 and 2016.

It was particularly poor for men and women aged 65.

By contrast, Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Denmark and Finland have seen major improvements in life expectancy.

A regional analysis showed that England and Wales have seen a greater slowdown in overall mortality improvements for men compared with Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Meanwhile, the north has seen no improvement in female mortality rates over the five-year period.

Former British pensions minister Sir Steve Webb said there is no reason why the UK should not be making improvements as he urged the government to investigate what is causing the trend.

The study also showed:

- The US experienced the greatest slowing in life expectancy for males at birth, dropping from an increase of 14.1 weeks each year year from 2005 to 2010 to only 1.5 weeks per year from 2010 to 2015.

- Switzerland had the highest life expectancy at birth for males in 2016

- Biggest slowdown in life expectancy improvements among women was in the UK, from 12.9 weeks in 2005 to 2010 every year to 1.2 weeks in 2011 to 2015.

Alan Evans, from the ONS, said: "The slowdown in life expectancy improvements that has been observed in the UK since 2011, is also evident in a number of countries across Europe, North America and Australia.

"However, the UK has experienced one of the largest slowdowns in life expectancy at birth and at age 65 years for males and females.

"By contrast, Japan has come through a period with low life expectancy gains and has recently experienced an acceleration of mortality improvements, showing that even after a period of slow growth in life expectancy, a country may again return to faster improvements."

Sir Steve Webb, former Liberal Democrat pensions minister and director of policy at Royal London, said: "The UK has slumped from being one of the strongest performers when it comes to improving life expectancy to bottom of the league.

"There is a real human cost behind these statistics and we urgently need to understand more about why this is happening."

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