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Statistical bulletin: Interim Life Tables, England and Wales, 2009-2011 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 21 March 2013 Download PDF

Key Points

  • Life expectancy at birth in England and Wales in 2009-2011 was 78.7 years for boys and 82.6 years for girls.
  • The gap between life expectancy at birth for boys and girls has narrowed from six years in 1980-1982 to four years in 2009-2011.
  • Over the last three decades life expectancy at birth has increased by four hours per day for females and six hours per day for males.
  • According to mortality rates in 2009-2011, 91% of baby girls and 86% of baby boys born in this period will reach their 65th birthdays. This has increased from 84% and 74% respectively in 1980-1982.
  • The chance of surviving from birth to age 85 has more than doubled for men over the last three decades from 14% in 1980-82 to 38% in 2009-2011.

Summary

ONS has released today interim life tables for 2009-2011 for England, Wales and England and Wales. The tables provide period life expectancy for males and females by single year of age (0 to 100), for three-year rolling periods from 1980–1982 onwards. The tables for 2000-2002 to 2008-2010 have been revised to take account of the mid-year population estimates for 2002 to 2010 that have been revised in the light of the 2011 Census results. Therefore the figures in the life tables for 2000-2002 to 2008-2010 published in this release may differ from those in previous releases.

Introduction

ONS produces national interim life tables, which are for the UK and constituent countries and give statistics on period life expectancy by age and sex. National interim life tables are produced annually and are based on three consecutive years worth of data to reduce the annual fluctuations in the number of deaths caused by seasonal events such as flu. The tables are known as interim life tables since fully graduated (smoothed) life tables are also prepared every ten years (decennial life tables), based on the three years of data around a census year.

Interim life tables are ‘period’ life tables and therefore all figures referred to in this bulletin are ‘period’ life expectancies. Period life expectancy is the average number of additional years a person would live if he or she experienced the age-specific mortality rates of the given time period for the rest of their life. Therefore it is not the number of years someone in that time period is actually likely to live, because death rates are likely to change over time.

This statistical bulletin will focus on England and Wales as a whole and England and Wales as separate countries. The release does not include figures for the UK or Great Britain (GB), because the population estimates for 2002-2010/11 based on the 2011 Census are not yet available for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The figures in this statistical bulletin are from the 2009-2011 Interim life tables release that uses the revised population estimates for England and Wales in their calculation. This means that the figures in the life tables for 2000-2002 to 2008-2010 in previous editions may differ to those published in this release.

The timetabling for the annual release of Interim life tables is different for this release due to the revision of the mid-year population estimates following the 2011 Census.  

Methods

The life table is a purely hypothetical calculation. The basic assumption is that there is a given number of births; this is an arbitrary number called the radix (ONS uses 100,000). The births are subject to the mortality rates prevailing for each age, and so remaining survivors pass through each year of age.

The national interim life tables are produced annually for the UK and its constituent countries. Each table is based on the population estimates and birth and death registration data for a period of three consecutive years. Period life tables are calculated using age-specific mortality rates for a given period, with no allowance for any actual or projected future changes in mortality. The notation used to calculate life tables is available in the guide to calculating interim life tables.

Life expectancy is the average number of years a person has before death. This is conventionally calculated from birth, but can also be calculated from any specified age. This gives the remaining further number of years a person on average can expect to live given the age they have attained. This means that period life expectancy at birth for a given time period and area is an estimate of the average number of years a newborn baby would survive if he/she experienced the particular area’s age-specific mortality rates for that time period throughout his/her life.

Life expectancies that allow for actual or projected changes in mortality during a person’s lifetime are known as ‘cohort’ life expectancies. ONS also produces historic and projected period and cohort life expectancy tables around each publication of the National Population Projections.

This release relates to the interim life tables for England and Wales only, rather than the UK and constituent countries. This is because of the availability of population data following the 2011 Census. In September 2012 ONS released the 2011 mid-year population estimates for England and Wales based on the 2011 Census and in December 2012 the revised back series of population estimates for the years 2002 to 2010. The corresponding population estimates for Scotland and Northern Ireland are not available at this time. Today ONS has released an interim life table for 2009-2011 and also revised interim life tables for the years 2000-2002 to 2008-2010, using the latest population estimates available for England and Wales.

Differences between Previous and Revised Tables

Life Expectancy

The differences in the life expectancies by age between the old set of life tables 2000-2002 to 2008-2010 and the revised set presented in this bulletin are very small. The differences do get larger over time and increase with age, therefore the largest differences in life expectancy are observed in 2008-2010 at ages 85 and over. The largest differences are for males at around 0.3 of a year or four months. For example, in England and Wales, 2008-2010, life expectancy for a man age 89 was 4.6 years using the 2008-2010 mid-year population estimates rolled forward from the 2001 Census and 4.3 years using the 2011 Census revised estimates for 2008-2010. There were even smaller differences for females, less than 0.1 of a year or about five weeks.

The majority of the differences are negative, that is life expectancy is lower as a result of the revisions to mid-year estimates for 2002 to 2010. The 2011 Census results showed that the estimates of the total population of England and Wales over the decade from 2001 were under estimated. However, at older ages (from around age 65) the 2011 Census actually identified an over estimate of the population at these ages. This means that a reduction in the estimate of the population (the denominator in calculating mortality rates) following the 2011 Census will result in an increase in mortality rates at older ages and hence a lower life expectancy. Changes in mortality rates at older ages in recent years have had a greater effect on life expectancy than changes occurring at younger ages.

Mortality rates (qx)

The differences between the old and revised mortality rates vary by age. In the revised tables, there have been increases in mortality rates (the probability of dying between exact age x and x + 1 has increased) for men in their twenties and at the oldest ages. These differences increase over time and there are peaks for men at age 22 of 6% and at age 91 of 9% in 2008-2010. For females, there are very small increases in mortality rates from age 68, smaller than for men at around 1% and at around 2% at the oldest ages.

For most other ages, for males and females and for England and Wales, mortality rates have decreased following the 2011 Census. That is, the probability of dying from one age to the next has reduced and as with the changes to life expectancy the differences increase over time, so the largest differences are in 2008-2010. However, the differences are small, particularly for women, at around 2% or less.
 

Life Expectancy at Birth

England and Wales

Life expectancy at birth in England and Wales has reached its highest level on record for both males and females. A newborn baby boy could expect to live 78.7 years and a newborn baby girl 82.6 years if mortality rates remain the same as they were in 2009-2011.

Figure 1: Life expectancy at birth, England and Wales, 1980-1982 to 2009-2011

Chart to show life expectancy at birth in England and Wales
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 1 shows how life expectancy at birth in England and Wales has changed over time. It has consistently increased from 71.0 years for males and 77.0 years for females in 1980-1982 to 78.7 years for males and 82.6 years for females in 2009-2011.

Women continue to live longer than men, but the gap has been closing. Although both sexes have shown annual improvements in life expectancy at birth, over the past three decades the gap has narrowed from 6.0 years to 4.0 years.
Based on mortality rates in 1980-1982 for England and Wales, 74% of newborn boys would survive to age 65. This has increased to 86% based on 2009-2011 rates. The equivalent figures for newborn girls surviving to age 65 were 84% in 1980-1982 and 91% in 2009-2011.

Comparing England with Wales

Life expectancy in England has risen to 78.7 years for males and 82.7 years for females in 2009-2011. In Wales life expectancy has also risen; but has remained at a slightly lower level, at 77.8 years for males and 82.0 years for females. In both countries the increase in life expectancy at birth has been just over seven years for males and just under six years for females since 1980-1982.

Figure 2: Life expectancy at birth, England, Wales, 1980-1982 to 2009-2011

Chart displaying life expectancy at birth in England and in Wales
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 2 shows that life expectancy at birth in England has been consistently higher than life expectancy at birth in Wales for both males and females throughout the time period 1980-1982 to 2009-2011. In 1988-90 the life expectancy at birth for both males and females living in the two countries almost converged at about 73 and 78 years respectively. By 2009-2011 the gap had diverged again to a similar size as that in 1980-1982.

Life expectancy at birth has seen continued increases since the 1980s for both males and females in England and in Wales. These increases over the last three decades are mostly because of improvements in mortality at older ages.

Life Expectancy at Older Ages

Life expectancy at age 65

In 2009-2011, life expectancy at age 65 for a man in England and Wales reached 18.2 years and for a women 20.8 years.

Figure 3: Life expectancy at age 65, England and Wales, 1980-1982 to 2009-2011

Chart showing life expectancy at age 65 in England and Wales
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 3 shows how life expectancy at age 65 in England and Wales has improved over time. For men it has risen by 5.1 years since 1980-1982 when it was 13.0 years. Women have seen a smaller increase of 3.8 years since 1980-1982 when it was 17.0 years.
 
The difference between male and female life expectancy at age 65 has decreased over the last three decades, from 4.0 years in 1980-1982 to 2.6 years in 2009-2011. Male life expectancy at age 65 has improved at a faster rate than for females, but males have not yet reached the life expectancy that has been achieved by females aged 65. Male life expectancy at age 65 is now the same as female life expectancy at age 65 was in 1992-1994.

Based on mortality rates in 1980-1982 for England and Wales, 81% of men aged 65 would die before age 85, but this has reduced to 56% in 2009-2011. The equivalent figures for a woman aged 65 in England and Wales were 62% in 1980-1982 and 43% in 2009-2011.

In 2009-2011 life expectancy at age 65 in England reached 18.2 years for males and 20.8 years for females and in Wales it was slightly lower at 17.7 years for males and 20.4 years for females. 

Life expectancy at age 85

A man in England and Wales aged 85 has a life expectancy of 5.8 years in 2009-2011. For females in England and Wales life expectancy at age 85 has reached 6.9 years in 2009-2011.

Figure 4: Life expectancy at age 85, England and Wales, 1980-1982 to 2009-2011

Chart showing life expectancy at age 85 in England and Wales.
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Life expectancy at age 85 has improved for men and women in England and Wales. From 1980-1982 to 2009-2011 it has increased by 1.5 years for both sexes. The gap between life expectancy at age 85 for males and females has remained fairly consistent over the last three decades at around one year. In 1980-1982 the difference was one year, this increased to 1.2 years in 1992-1994 and has fallen to one year again in 2009-2011.

Based on mortality rates in 1980-1982 for England and Wales, 99% of men aged 85 would die before reaching age 100, while by 2009-2011 this had reduced to 97%. The chance of dying before reaching age 100 has reduced more for women than for men. Mortality rates in 1980-1982 showed that 98% of women aged 85 in England and Wales would die before reaching age 100; this has reduced to 95% in 2009-2011.

Table 1 gives the percentage change in life expectancy at birth, at age 65 and at age 85, between 1980-1982 and 2009-2011 in England and Wales. It shows that (for both males and females) the percentage change in life expectancy between 1980-1982 and 2009-2011 was greater at ages 65 and 85 than for life expectancy at birth. The percentage change in life expectancy at age 85 (27%) is greater than at birth (7%) and age 65 (22%) for women, but for men the greatest percentage change in life expectancy is at age 65 (39%). Although life expectancy is lower for males than females, males are experiencing the greater improvements at all ages. The greater increases at older ages adds to evidence that increasing life expectancy over the last few decades is mostly due to the improving mortality rates at older ages. 

Table 1: Percentage Change in Life Expectancy, England and Wales 1980-1982 to 2009-2011

Improvement in Life expectancy at birth Improvement in Life expectancy at age 65 Improvement in Life expectancy at age 85
Males  11% 39% 34%
Females 7% 22% 27%

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Surviving to older ages

Baby girls born in 2009-2011 had a 91% chance of surviving to age 65 and a 52% chance of surviving to age 85. The corresponding percentages for baby boys were 86% and 38% respectively. These chances of survival are based on the mortality rates at every age in 2009-2011 and make no allowance for any future changes in mortality rates.

Figures 5a and 5b show the survival curves for males and females from the 1980-1982 and the 2009-2011 life tables. Survival to age 65 and to age 85 have increased for both males and females. The increase in female survival rates from birth to age 85 over the three decades has been substantial, from 32% in 1980-1982 to 52% in 2009-2011. Male survival to age 85 remains lower than for females, however the increase in male survival has been greater and has more than doubled, from 14% to 38% over the same period. There have also been increases in survival from age 65 to age 85. The proportions surviving are shown in the boxes in Figures 5a and 5b. The chance of a woman surviving to age 85 having reached age 65 has increased from 38% in 1980-1982 to 57% in 2009-2011. For men, again, the chance of surviving from age 65 to age 85 has more than doubled, from 19% in 1980-1982 to a 44% chance in 2009-2011.

Figure 5a and 5b: Survival curves for 1980-1982 and 2009-2011, England and Wales

Chart showing survival curves for selected years for England and Wales
Source: Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. The percentages in the boxes show the chance of surviving from one age to another age e.g. from age 65 to age 85.

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Mortality rates at older ages are thought to be improving because of a combination of factors. One major factor is the improvements in mortality from circulatory diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, partly driven by changing smoking habits1 and medical and technological advances. People who are younger than 60 in 2009-2011 have also benefitted from a lifetime of NHS health care services.

People born between 1926 and 1935 are often referred to as the ‘Golden Cohort’. In particular those born around 1930 have experienced improvements in mortality in recent years that no cohort has experienced previously or since. The effect of their greater rates of improvement in mortality contributes to the overall improvements in mortality at older ages in England and Wales.

Patterns of life expectancy at age 85 in England and in Wales are very similar to those for England and Wales as a whole.

As the percentage chance of surviving to older ages has improved over time, this has led to increases in the population aged 90 and over. See ONS estimates of the very old (including centenarians) also published today.

Notes for Life Expectancy at Older Ages

  1. Murphy M, Di Cesare M, (2012) Use of an age-period-cohort model to reveal the impact of cigarette smoking in trends in Twentieth century adult cohort mortality in England and Wales, Population Studies, Vol 66, issue 3.

International Comparison

Comparison of life expectancy in England and Wales with other selected countries

Table 2: Life Expectancy in Selected Countries, Males, 2009-2011

Life expectancy at birth Rank Life expectancy at age 65 Rank Life expectancy at age 85 Rank
Switzerland 80.3 1 19.0 2 5.7 6
Iceland (2011) 79.9 2 18.3 6 5.3 12
Australia 79.7 3 19.1 1 6.2 1
Japan (2011) 79.4 4 18.7 4 6.0 3
Italy (2010) 79.4 4 18.3 6 5.7 6
Netherlands (2011) 79.2 6 18.3 6 5.7 6
Spain (2011) 79.2 6 18.5 5 6.0 3
New Zealand 79.1 8 18.8 3 6.2 1
Norway (2011) 79.0 9 18.0 10 5.5 9
England & Wales 78.7 10 18.2 9 5.8 5
Germany 77.7 11 17.5 11 5.5 9
Denmark 77.3 12 17.1 12 5.3 12
Poland (2011) 72.4 13 15.3 13 5.5 9

Table notes:

  1. Countries have been selected based on the availability of data for the selected years.
  2. Sources: Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Statistics Iceland, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics bureau of Japan, The National Institute of Statistics Italy, Statistics Netherlands, National Statistics Institute of Spain, Statistics New Zealand, Statistics Norway, ONS, Federal Statistical office of Germany, Statistics Denmark and Central Statistical Office of Poland.

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Out of the 13 selected countries in the table Switzerland has the highest male life expectancy at birth of 80.3 years in 2009-2011. Poland has the lowest male life expectancy at birth in 2011 at 72.4 years. Men in England and Wales rank 10th out of the 13 selected countries. Life expectancy at birth is 78.7 years which is higher than Germany at 77.7 years in 2011 but lower than Norway which is 79.0 years in 2011.

Australia has the highest life expectancy at age 65 in 2009-2011 at 19.1 years. Again Poland is the lowest at 15.3 years. Men in England and Wales are ranked ninth with 18.2 years of life at age 65. This is above Norway in 2011 at 18.0 years and below Iceland (2011), Netherlands and Italy who all report 18.3 years.

At age 85, men in England and Wales rank more highly within the 13 selected countries. Australia remains the highest with a life expectancy at age 85 of 6.2 years. Men in England and Wales are ranked fifth at 5.8 years, below Japan at 6.0 years and above the Netherlands at 5.7 years. Life expectancy at age 85 is more similar between the selected countries compared with life expectancy at birth and at age 65.

Life expectancy for males in Denmark is consistently in the bottom two of the 13 selected countries.

Table 3: Life Expectancy in Selected Countries, Females, 2009-2011

Life expectancy at birth Rank Life expectancy at age 65 Rank Life expectancy at age 85 Rank
Japan (2011) 85.9 1 23.7 1 8.1 1
Spain (2011) 85.0 2 22.4 2 7.0 3
Switzerland 84.7 3 22.2 3 7.0 3
Italy (2010) 84.4 4 21.9 5 6.9 5
Australia 84.2 5 2.0 4 7.2 2
Iceland (2011) 83.6 6 21.0 9 6.5 10
Norway (2011) 83.5 7 21.2 7 6.6 9
Netherlands (2011) 82.9 8 21.3 6 6.9 5
New Zealand 82.8 9 21.2 7 6.9 5
Germany 82.7 10 20.7 11 6.3 13
England & Wales 82.6 11 20.8 10 6.9 5
Denmark 81.6 12 19.8 12 6.5 10
Poland (2011) 80.9 13 19.7 13 6.4 12

Table notes:

  1. Countries have been selected based on the availability of data for the selected years.
  2. Sources: Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Statistics Iceland, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics bureau of Japan, The National Institute of Statistics Italy, Statistics Netherlands, National Statistics Institute of Spain, Statistics New Zealand, Statistics Norway, ONS, Federal Statistical office of Germany, Statistics Denmark and Central Statistical Office of Poland.

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Table 3 shows that out of the 13 selected countries Japanese females have the highest life expectancy at birth of 85.9 years in 2011. Women in Poland have the lowest life expectancy at 80.9 years. Women in England and Wales rank 11th with a life expectancy at birth of 82.6 years. This is above Denmark at 81.6 years but below Germany where females have a life expectancy at birth of 82.7 years.

Japanese females have the highest life expectancy at age 65, at 23.7 years in 2011. Of the 13 selected countries, women in Poland have the lowest life expectancy at age 65 at 19.7 years. England and Wales females rank 10th with a life expectancy of 20.8 years, appearing above Germany (20.7 years), Denmark (19.8 years) and Poland (19.7 years).

Life expectancy at age 85 is the highest for women in Japan at 8.1 years. Australia has the second highest life expectancy at age 85 for females at 7.2 years, nearly one whole year lower than Japan. Females in England and Wales rank joint fifth with Italy, New Zealand, and the Netherlands each at 6.9 years. The lowest life expectancy at age 85 for females is in Germany at 6.3 years in 2009-2011.

In countries where life expectancy exceeds England and Wales, lifestyle is thought to account for some of the difference, for example the Mediterranaen diet which has been linked to improvements in heart disease1. Diet has also been a factor associated with the high levels of life expectancy observed in Japan, alongside economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s and a universal health system. However, recently life expectancy at birth for males in Japan has fallen behind that of Australia and Switzerland. This may be because of higher levels of tobacco consumption and a rise in obesity2

Notes for International Comparison

  1. The European health report 2012, Charting the way to well-being, World Health Organisation
  2. Murray, Christopher J L, Why is  Japanese life expectancy so high? The Lancet, vol 378, 2013

Use and Users of Life Tables

The interim life tables provide the user with life tables in the period between censuses, therefore enabling up-to-date analysis of life expectancy which is important to track progress against health targets and pension analysis. Life expectancy figures provide users with an indicator of the health of the nation which can be used to inform policy, planning and research in both public and private sectors in areas such as health, population, pensions and insurance.

Key uses:

  • to study the course of mortality throughout the life cycle,

  • as an indicator of the health of the nation,

  • to inform policy regarding state pension age, or

  • to assess risk for life assurance and pension liability.

Within ONS, interim life tables are used in the methodologies used to calculate disability free life expectancy and healthy life expectancy and in the new methodology for calculating ‘duration of working life’. They are also used to inform the assumptions of future mortality for the National Population Projections.

Users of life tables outside of ONS include:

Other government departments:

  •  Government Actuary’s Department,

  •  Department of Work and Pensions,

  •  Department of Health and Health Authorities,

  •  National Records of Scotland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency and Welsh Assembly Government, and

  •  HM Treasury.

Non-government organisations:

  •  universities – academics and students,

  •  news media,

  •  financial advisors/consultants,

  •  insurance companies and actuarial professions, and 

  •  the general public.

Background notes

  1. Figures in the tables and commentary are rounded to one decimal place.

  2. The population estimates for mid-2002 to mid-2010 have been revised following the rebasing of the mid-2011 population estimates to the 2011 Census. The census is the most complete source of information about the population and produces a high-quality population estimate to which the annual mid-year estimates are rebased each decade.

    As the population is moved forward from the census base, uncertainty accumulates because of the estimation in each of the components particularly those relating to migration. The 2011 Census identified a 464,000 shortfall in the estimates of the population of England and Wales over the decade. (See ‘Explaining the Difference Between the 2011 Census Estimates and the Rolled-Forward Population Estimates’).

    The revised mid-2002 to mid-2010 population estimates for England and Wales are based on the rolled-forward series of estimates updated to account for the 464,000 difference between the mid-2011 rolled-forward and mid-2011 Census-based estimates. The revised estimates reflect the estimated distribution of this difference across the decade and between components of population change and complete the consistent time-series of annual estimates for England and Wales to mid-2011. The estimates form the official series of population estimates and are certified as National Statistics by the UK Statistics Authority.

  3. National interim life tables for the United Kingdom and Great Britain will be produced in winter 2013 or spring 2014, once all the population data based on the 2011 Censuses for each of the constituent countries are available.

  4. Follow ONS on Twitter and Facebook.

  5. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Julie Mills +44 (0)1329 444681 Demographic Analysis Unit lifetables@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Emily Clay +44 (0)1329 447890 Demographic Analysis Unit lifetables@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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