[Correction] National life tables - life expectancy in the UK: 2018 to 2020

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National life tables - life expectancy in the UK: 2018 to 2020

23 September 2021

Apologies for errors in the earlier email, please corrected text below.

Today ONS has published National life tables - life expectancy in the UK: 2018 to 2020.

The main points from the release are:

  • Life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2018 to 2020 was 79.0 years for males and 82.9 years for females; this represents a fall of 7 weeks for males and almost no change for females (a slight increase of 0.5 weeks) from the latest non-overlapping period 2015 to 2017. 
  • Life expectancy at age 65 years was 18.5 years for males and 21.0 years for females; these estimates are very similar to those for 2015 to 2017 with a slight decline of 1 week for males and an increase of 3.1 weeks for females.
  • Across the UK, life expectancy at birth in 2018 to 2020 was estimated to be 79.3 years for males and 83.1 years for females in England, 76.8 years for males and 81.0 years for females in Scotland, 78.3 years for males and 82.1 years for females in Wales and 78.7 years for males and 82.4 years for females in Northern Ireland.
  • These life tables cover mortality in the UK for the period from 2018 to 2020 and are the first to include the higher mortality observed in 2020 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • In the UK, the median age at death was 82.3 years for males and 85.8 years for females and the modal (most common) age at death was 86.7 years for males and 89.3 years for females in 2018 to 2020; these show the typical ages at which death occurs and were very similar to the estimates for 2015 to 2017.

Statistician’s comment

“Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the last 40 years, albeit at a slower pace in the last decade.

“However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a greater number of deaths than normal in 2020. Consequently, in the latest estimates, we see virtually no improvement in life expectancy for females compared to 2015 to 2017 at 82.9 years, while for males life expectancy has fallen back to levels reported for 2012 to 2014, at 79 years. This is the first time we have seen a decline when comparing non-overlapping time periods since the series began in the early 1980s.

“These estimates rely on the assumption that current levels of mortality, which are unusually high, will continue for the rest of someone’s life. Once the coronavirus pandemic has ended and its consequences for future mortality are known, it is possible that life expectancy will return to an improving trend in the future.”

Pamela Cobb, Centre for Ageing and Demography, Office for National Statistics

Alongside this release we have also published Estimates of the very old, including centenarians, UK: 2002 to 2020 and Life expectancy for local areas of the UK: between 2001 to 2003 and 2018 to 2020.

The national statistical blog Has the Coronavirus pandemic caused life expectancy in the UK to fall? brings the main findings from the three releases together.

Rich Pereira

Rich Pereira is the head of the Centre for Ageing and Demography. You can follow Rich on Twitter for the latest in population statistics news: @RichPereira_ONS.

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