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Summary - Chapter 3: Life expectancy and healthy ageing

Released: 16 February 2012 Download PDF

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Over this decade, life expectancy at State Pension Age will decline for women as their State Pension Age rises. Between 2021 and 2051, life expectancy at State Pension Age is expected to rise gradually for both sexes, because, following a change in the assumptions for future life expectancy in ONS's 2010-based population projections, life expectancy at the relevant ages is now projected to increase at a slightly faster rate than the increases in State Pension Age contained in the Pensions Acts 2007 and 2011.

Cohort life expectancy at State Pension Age, UK

The chart shows data from 1981 projected to 2051. For men, life expectancy at State Pension Age rises graduallly from 14 to 23.2 years. For women it rises from 22.4 to 28 years by 2011 and then drops to 24 years by 2021 (given changes to SPA). It then rises again to 25.4 by 2051.
Source: Office for National Statistics

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These projections are for the average person and do not take account of differences in socio-economic class or location. The latest estimates for England and Wales show a gap of over three years in period life expectancy at age 65 between the highest and lowest classes in the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC). Within the UK, period life expectancy at age 65 is highest in England and lowest in Scotland.

A related question is whether people will be able to enjoy their retirement in good health. In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, UK men at age 65 had 9.9 years of healthy life expectancy, while UK women at age 65 had 11.5 years of healthy life expectancy.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. Historic figures are based on ONS population estimates. Projections relate to the ONS's 2010-based principal population projections.

  2. The period method of calculating life expectancy applies mortality rates based only on deaths in the year in question. The cohort method of calculating life expectancy uses mortality rates that prevail as the type of person in question ages. This requires the estimation of future mortality rates from the 2010-based national population projections as well as the observation of past rates.

  3. The figures for healthy life expectancy at age 65 in 2008 are based on a three year moving average plotted on the central year; therefore the 2008 figures use data from 2007 to 2009.

  4. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

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

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Pension Trends - consists of 14 chapters bringing together official statistics on pensions and retirement.

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