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Why the place you were born could cut 10 years from your life

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People born in the most deprived areas of England can expect to live almost a decade less than those born in the least deprived regions, new data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

The data looked at the 2017-2019 period, and found that men born in the most deprived areas could expect to live for 74.1 years, compared to 83.5 years for those in the least deprived areas, almost a full decade difference. 

The gap was slightly smaller for women, with those born in deprived areas having a life expectancy of 78.7 years, in contrast to the 86.4 year life expectancy of those born in the most well-off areas. While this is a smaller difference than for men, this particular gap has grown since the 2014-2016 period.

Living in good health

The data didn’t just flag up shocking differences in overall life expectancy, but in the expected periods we will live in good health as well.

The ONS found that ‘healthy life expectancy’ ‒ the amount of time we are likely to enjoy good health ‒ stands at just 52.3 years for men born in the most deprived areas. This is significantly lower than the 70.7 years for men in the least deprived areas.

That’s the best part of two decades difference in good health, based simply on where you were born.

The gap is even more stark for women. Those born in most deprived areas enjoy just 51.4 years in good health, compared to 71.2 years for those born in the least deprived regions.

The most deprived areas

When assessing how deprived an area is, the ONS looks at factors including:

  • Income
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Health
  • Crime
  • Barriers to housing and services
  • Living environment

The latest data from the ONS found that deprivation is dispersed across the country, with 61% of local authority districts containing at least one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Britain.

However, some regions are more severely affected. Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Knowsley, Kingston upon Hull and Manchester are the local authorities with the highest proportions of neighbourhoods among the most deprived in England, while seven of the 10 local authority districts with the highest levels of income deprivation among older people are in London.

What does this mean for your money?

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said that it was “shocking” that there was such a stark gap in life expectancy simply because of where someone was born, and that it was “deeply worrying” that this gap has been widening over the last five years.

Selby added that these vast differences present significant challenges to politicians on things like retirement income provision and the state pension. 

He continued: “The current flat-rate state pension system and universal retirement age has the benefit of simplicity, but it also means those with the lowest life expectancies – who tend to live in the poorest areas – will, on average, receive the least. 

“Some will argue this is fair given higher earners will, on average, pay more in National Insurance contributions over their lifetimes. However, there is a debate to be had about the future balance between simplicity and fairness in the system given the huge inequalities we can see across the country.”

But understanding your life expectancy will have an impact on your own pension planning, separate from what politicians are doing. It’s crucial that you take a realistic view of how long you are likely to live to ensure you put enough aside in your pension pot during your working years, and then don’t overspend once you retire so that the money lasts you for your entire retirement.

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