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Brits living healthier lives for longer

People in the UK are spending more of their lives in good health than ever before, official statistics show.

Men can expect to stay healthy until they are almost 64, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

This is up two years from when the study was last carried out in 2007.

For females, their healthy life expectancy (HLE) - a measure of how long people live free of chronic disease or disability - is also more than two years higher at almost 66 years.

With the life expectancy of a male now 78.1 years and a female 82.1 years – men and women in the UK can expect to spend at least 80 per cent of this in good health.

Regional differences

Despite the improvements in HLE, there is still regional disparity across the UK.

People in England can expect to spend the longest periods in good general health – 64.4 years on average.

The shortest periods are in Scotland and Northern Ireland - 59.8 and 59.2 years respectively.

Meanwhile, the proportion of life spent in very good or good general health is increasing in England and Wales but, on the whole, is falling in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Financing retirement

Andy Zanelli, head of retirement planning at AXA Wealth, said: "The data released by the ONS is encouraging, highlighting that the majority of men and women in the UK will enjoy very good or good general health throughout their lives.

"These results, coupled with rising longevity, highlight that for many, retirement is likely to be longer than ever before.

"If we are to spend longer in retirement it is essential that we finance it appropriately so that we can sit back and enjoy it.
"Income options such as a scheme pension and an enhanced or variable annuity could be better for the longer term and aid in retirees’ money management."

Preparing for care needs

Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of over-50s insurer Saga, believes that the latest figures are something to celebrate but bring challenges when it comes to financing care for people in their old age.

Dr Altmann said: "Working longer, keeping active - and saving more if you can - are vital ingredients of managing the ageing population.

"We need to help older people look after themselves where possible and help younger people appreciate the value of elders.

"The other huge challenge of longer lives is helping people prepare for care needs, either for themselves or their loved ones. 

Huge challenges to come

"Government has taken far too long to address the care crisis.

"Although it may be warming to the idea of proceeding with a cap on the amount individuals will need to pay for their care costs, we still need proper clarification on how this will funded and delivered.

"Funding is the crucial missing piece of the care puzzle and as life expectancy continues to rise, the need for care funding will also increase.

"While we can all expect to live in good health for longer than before, there will still be many more needing care at some stage. Preparing for this, and how to pay for it, are huge challenges to come."

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Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley is a content producer at He joined us in May 2012 from the world of financial services PR.

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