1. Main points

  • Period life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2016 was 82.9 years for females and 79.2 years for males.

  • In 50 years time, by 2066, period life expectancy at birth in the UK is projected to reach 88.9 years for females and 86.4 years for males.

  • Cohort life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2016 was 91.9 years for females and 89.3 years for males.

  • In 50 years time, by 2066, cohort life expectancy at birth in the UK is projected to reach 98.1 years for females and 96.1 years for males.

  • In 2066 in the UK, 50.0% of new born baby girls and 44.2% of new born baby boys are projected to live to at least 100 years old.

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2. Statistician’s comment

“Improvements in life expectancy in the 2016-based projections are slightly lower than those projected in the 2014-based projections. This has been driven by higher mortality rates in 2015 and 2016 than were projected in the 2014-based projections and lower rates of mortality improvement at older ages over the first 25 years of the projections.”

Sophie Sanders, Population Statistics Division, Office for National Statistics

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3. Things you need to know about this release

Our period and cohort life tables give historical and projected statistics by single year of age and sex, from 1981 to 2016 and then 50 years into the future (2017 to 2066). They are produced biennially for the UK based on the assumptions for future mortality from the national population projections (NPP). This release relates to the 2016-based NPP published on the 26 October 2017.

Period life expectancies use mortality rates from a single year (or group of years) and assume that those rates apply throughout the remainder of a person’s life. This means that any subsequent changes to mortality rates would not be taken into account. A period life expectancy is therefore the average number of additional years a person would live if he or she experienced the age-specific mortality rates of the given area and time period for the rest of their life. For example, a period life expectancy at age 65 years in 2016 would use the observed mortality rates for 2016 for ages 65, 66 and 67 years and so on. A period life expectancy at age 65 years in 2020 would use the projected mortality rates for 2020 for ages 65, 66 and 67 years and so on.

Cohort life expectancies make allowances for future mortality improvements by taking into account observed and projected improvements in mortality for the cohort throughout its lifetime. For example, cohort life expectancy at age 65 years in 2016 would be worked out using the observed mortality rate for age 65 years in 2016 and the projected mortality rates for age 66 years in 2017, for age 67 years in 2018 and so on. Cohort life expectancy at age 65 years in 2020 would be worked out using the projected mortality rates for age 65 years in 2020, for age 66 years in 2021, for age 67 years in 2022 and so on.

A more detailed explanation of the difference between period and cohort life expectancies can be found in Period and cohort life expectancy explained.

It should be noted the projections are not forecasts and will inevitably differ to a greater or lesser extent from actual future figures. The further ahead from the projection base year (2016) the more uncertain the statistics become.

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4. How long can you expect to live?

Enter your details into our life expectancy calculator for the UK to find out how long you are expected to live given assumed future mortality improvements (your cohort life expectancy). You can also find out your chances of surviving to age 100 years.

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7. How have projected chances of survival to the oldest ages changed?

Chance of living to age 100 years is projected to almost double in 50 years

Although in the 2016-based projections future life expectancy across all ages is projected to be lower than in the 2014-based projections, life expectancy is still projected to increase from 2016. People are therefore on average projected to live longer and the chance of surviving to the oldest ages continues to be projected to increase.

Using cohort life tables, Figure 8 plots the percentage of population born in each year expected to survive to age 100 years from 1981 to 2066. In 2016, a new born baby girl had a 28.3% chance of living to age 100 years, while a new born baby boy had a 22.6% chance. Looking 50 years into the future, 50.0% of females born in 2066 and 44.2% of males are expected to live to age 100 years.

This is a small decline from the 2014-based projections where 56.5% of females and 50.1% of males born in 2066 were projected to live to age 100 years.

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8. How do life expectancy projections for the UK compare internationally?

Internationally there are examples of countries with higher life expectancies than the UK; for example, Japan and other countries in Europe such as Norway, Sweden, Iceland, France and the Netherlands.

In 2016 the UK had the lowest life expectancy at birth of the seven countries shown in Table 2 for both males and females. However, by 2060, life expectancy in the UK is projected to overtake Iceland for both males and females and overtake males in Japan. This suggests that we may be more optimistic than some other countries when setting the assumptions for future mortality.

Notes for How do life expectancy projections for the UK compare internationally?

  1. Countries selected based on availability of data, which were taken from the latest published projections from each country's National Statistics website.
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9. Quality and methodology

This release contains tables of life expectancy (ex), probability of death (qx) and numbers of persons surviving (lx) from the 2016-based national population projections (NPP). These tables contain historical and projected figures for 1981 to 2066 on a period and cohort basis from life tables calculated using observed and projected deaths and population estimates and projections.

The definitions of life expectancy (ex), probability of death (qx) and numbers of persons surviving (lx) are as follows:

  • qx is the mortality rate between age x and (x + 1), that is the probability that a person aged x exactly will die before reaching age (x + 1)

  • lx is the number of survivors to exact age x of 100,000 live births of the same sex who are assumed to be subject throughout their lives to the mortality rates experienced in the year or years to which the life table relates

  • ex is the average period expectation of life at exactly age x, that is the average number of years that those aged x exactly will live thereafter based on the mortality rates experienced in the year or years to which the life table relates

A more detailed explanation of the difference between period and cohort life expectancies can be found in Period and cohort life expectancy explained.

Mortality projections are based largely on extrapolation of past trends in rates of mortality improvement. Expert opinion is used to inform the assumptions made about future mortality rates. Information on the assumption setting process for future mortality patterns is available in the mortality assumptions chapter of the NPP publication.

The National life tables Quality and Methodology Information report and the National population projections Quality and Methodology Information report contain important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • uses and users

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

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10. What’s new in this release?

The assumed mortality improvement for the high life expectancy variant has been lowered from 2.4% to 1.9% per year after 25 years. More information on the underlying assumptions can be found in the mortality assumptions chapter of the NPP publication.

In addition to the high and low variants, life expectancy (ex), probability of death (qx) and numbers of persons surviving (lx) datasets are provided for two additional variants in this release: moderately high life expectancy and moderately low life expectancy. These variants assume annual improvement rates in mortality of 1.6% and 0.6% respectively.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Sophie Sanders
pop.info@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1329 444661