Men in the highest professions are outliving the average woman in England and Wales for the first time.

Research on life expectancy by socioeconomic position between 2007 and 2011 revealed that men in the most advantaged group of higher managerial and professional could expect to live for 82.5 years; marginally longer than an average woman at 82.4 years.

Despite this, women in the most advantaged socioeconomic group – which takes into account an individual’s occupation, education and salary - still have the longest life expectancy at 85.2 years.

Over the past 30 years men have been closing the life expectancy gap between the two sexes as the average man has seen his life expectancy improve by seven years to 79.1, whereas improvement for the average woman, was just four and a half years to 82.4 years.

Life expectancy, highest socioeconomic group and the average women, England and Wales, 1982-86 to 2007-11

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Historically women have outlived men and back in the early 1980s even those women in the least advantaged socioeconomic group could expect to live longer (at 77.2 years) than the most advantaged group of men (75.7 years). The least advantaged group, called ‘routine’, includes those with occupations such as cleaners and porters.

Life expectancy by selected socioeconomic groups, England and Wales, 1982-86 and 2007-11

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Since the 1970s, men have been catching women up in terms of survival. The decline of the mining industry and the move away from physical labour and manufacturing industries towards the service sector is a likely cause, along with a reduction in the proportion of men smoking.

Over the past 30 years inequalities in life expectancy by socioeconomic position have widened for both men and women with improvements in life expectancy being greater for the most advantaged.

At 5.3 years, the inequality gap was widest for women in the latest period of 2007-11. For men, the inequality gap peaked between 1997 and 2001, where the most advantaged could expect to live 7.5 years longer than the least advantaged before this slipped to 6.7 years for 2007 to 2011.

The full report includes further information on trends in individual social classes for life expectancy at age 65 as well as at birth and on trends in alternative measures of inequality.

What is the life expectancy for your socioeconomic group? Enter your occupation and find out:

Life expectancy by socioeconomic groups, England and Wales, 2007-11

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For more information, please contact: hle@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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