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Longevity increases are stalling

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Increases in life expectancy are stalling after 100 years of continuous progress, according to research from University College London, with implications for retirees.

The research, led by Sir Michael Marmot, used Office for National Statistics projections for babies born since 2000, to show the rate of increase in life expectancy had nearly halved since 2010.

Since the First World War, life expectancy has been increasing progressively, with life expectancy at birth increasing by one year every five years for women and by one year every 3.5 years for men. Since 2010, this has slowed to one year every 10 years for women and one for every six for men.

The report put the blame on dementia and lifestyle diseases. This chimes with a recent report from Public Health England (PHE), which showed that while people are living longer, they are doing so in increasingly poor health. It found that life expectancy has increased more than years in good health and therefore the number of years lived in poor health has also increased. Diabetes makes the top 10 causes of ill-health and disability (morbidity) for the first time, with the two biggest risk factors behind levels of ill health are excess weight and high blood sugar.

If the trend continues, it will have implications for the state of retirement in the UK. Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Old Mutual Wealth, said the data will inevitably lead to questions around the pace of state pension age increases.

He said: “It would be dangerous to treat this report as an excuse to avoid tackling the long-term sustainability of the state pension. The state pension age remained largely unchanged for decades while life expectancy has increased rapidly. The proposed increases are really an example of the state pension age playing catch up with life expectancy.”

The data may also have implications for annuity rates. Annuity rates factor in longevity when deciding the rates to pay individuals, so at the margin, this may see rates rise.

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