Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Life expectancy gender gap closes

Smoking rates have fallen dramatically in men in the past 20 years

The gap in life expectancy between men and women in the UK is narrowing, official figures show.

On average, women live longer than men - 81.5 years compared with 77.2 years, the latest Office for National Statistics show.

But the ONS said the difference in life expectancy between men and women has narrowed over the past 20 years by a year and a half.

Experts said men quitting smoking and better heart care were responsible.

The figures showed life expectancy has improved in all countries and regions of the UK in recent years, although children in the south of England can still expect to live longer than those in the north.

One of the big killers of men in middle age is cardiovascular disease, and early diagnosis and treatment has reduced that quite dramatically
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis

Life expectancy in the south west is now 78.7 years for men and 82.9 years for women compared with 76.3 years for men and 80.4 years for women in the north east.

London showed the biggest improvement between 1991-93 and 2005-07 of 4.6 years for men and 3.1 years for women.

The second largest increases were in the north east with 4.3 years for men and 3.0 years for women.

Men in Scotland had the smallest increase in life expectancy over the period at 3.3 years and for women the smallest increase was in Wales at 2.3 years.

At the age of 65, men can now expect to live for another 17.2 years and women for 19.9 years.

Healthier men

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health said he was not surprised to see the gap between men and women narrowing.

"Men stopping smoking has been a powerful factor as that has come down pretty well over the past 20 years.

"The other factor is that one of the big killers of men in middle age is cardiovascular disease and early diagnosis and treatment has reduced that quite dramatically.

"And lifestyle factors have improved although obesity is still a big problem."

He added that in more recent years, GP incentives for monitoring and controlling blood pressure and high tech approaches to heart attack care had also had a big effect.

"It's all very encouraging."

Life expectancy

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