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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Poor health blight is increasing
Elderly person
Women still live longer than men
Average life expectancy in the UK is rising - but so is the length of time people have to endure ill health during their life.

Office for National Statistics figures show that in 2001 average life expectancy was 80.4 years for women, and 75.7 for men.

This is up substantially on the 1981 figures for both sexes.

However, both women and men can now expect a longer period of ill health before they die than in the past.

It is appalling that in this day and age, older women are having to spend 10 years or more in poor health.
Andrea Lane
The ONS figures show that average life expectancy has risen by 4.8 years for men, and 3.6 years for women in the 20 years from 1981.

The number of years that people can expect to remain in good health has also risen for both sexes.

However, this has not kept pace with the surge in average life expectancy in recent years.

In 1981, the average man could expect to live in poor health for 6.5 years. By 2001, this had risen to 8.7 years.

Women can expect to endure poor health for even longer. In 1981, the average women could expect 10.1 years of poor health, but in 2001 the average figure had risen to 11.6 years.

Ill health can strike at any time, but often it is a particular problem in old age.


Andrea Lane, from charity Help the Aged, said: "It is appalling that in this day and age, women are having to spend 10 years or more in poor health.

"While we have cracked the secret of longevity, it is vital that we now work to obtain the holy grail of good health and quality of life in old age.

"If the government is serious about the health and lifestyle of the nation, it must address the particular needs of the older population.

"We need more medical research into the ageing process and investment into basic 'home help' style services to ensure older people can stay independent and healthy throughout their later years."

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