The gap in life expectancy between the poorest and most advantaged females in England has reached a record high, now standing at seven years and five months since in three years – a rise of five months Getty
© Getty
The gap in life expectancy between the poorest and most advantaged females in England has reached a record high, now standing at seven years and five months since in three years – a rise of five months
The life expectancy of the poorest girls in England has fallen for the first time on record since the 1920s, new figures show, in what charities and opposition politicians described as an "appalling" consequence of underfunding in health and social care.

Despite a gradual increase in the predicted lifespan of the population over the past century, data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows deprived females born between 2014 and 2016 were expected to die younger than those born between 2011 and 2013.

The gap in life expectancy between the poorest and most advantaged females in England has meanwhile reached a record high, now standing at seven years and five months - a rise of five months between the two most recent periods observed.

The data shows that the least deprived 10 per cent of girls were expected to live 86 years and two months - up by more than three months between 2011 to 2013 and 2014 to 2016 - while the poorest 10 per cent had a life expectancy of 78 years and 10 months - a figure that fell by more than two months in the same period.

Such data measuring levels of deprivation with life expectancy has only started being recorded by the ONS in the past 10 years, during which there has, until now, been no decrease among any group. Figures on the overall population meanwhile show that last time the female population in England saw a drop in life expectancy was in 1924.

For the male population, the gap in life expectancy between the poorest and most advantaged was almost a decade, standing at 73 years and 11 months and 83 years and four months respectively.

Unlike among poor women, the most deprived males did see their life expectancy rise, but only by a very small increase of less than a month, while the most advantaged boys gained more than four months of life.

The figures will sharpen concerns that, while life expectancy improved for men and women in England and Wales in the first 10 years of this century, they have subsequently begun to fall away.

A recent report by the Longevity Science Panel found that the life expectancy gap between England's richest and poorest communities had grown considerably over the past 14 years.

Chris White, of the ONS, told The Independent the new data indicated this change was most visible among the deprived sections of the population.

"While the least deprived people are living for longer and longer, men from deprived backgrounds saw a tiny improvement and for poorer women life expectancy was actually found to be in reverse," he said.

"We don't really expect that based on the projector of life expectancy in any time since the 1980s. For men, life expectancy hasn't gone down since 1945, and for women, not since 1924. So these changes in the short time frame are statistically significant."

Responding to the figures, Campbell Robb, chief executive at the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), said: "In our society, we believe in justice and compassion, helping and protecting each other from harm.

"And yet, life expectancy for women in poverty is considerably lower than those from wealthier backgrounds. This is simply unacceptable. Everyone should have the same opportunity to enjoy a healthy and secure life - regardless of their income or where they're from.

"These figures should act as wake-up call: we need action to loosen poverty's grip on the health of our nation."

Sharon Hodgson, shadow minister for public health, said: "The growing gulf of health inequalities between rich and poor exposes the terrible effects of the policies pursued by this Government.

"It's just astonishing that this decade has seen a slowdown in improvements in life expectancy - an appalling consequence of this Government's failure to improve the chances of the worst off - as years of underfunding in health and social care take their toll.


Comment: It's not so astonishing if you're paying attention to the continual deterioration in society.


"The next Labour government will ensure our health and care system is properly funded so all children are given the best possible start in life, and older people are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron echoed her concerns, saying: "It is appalling that as a country we are moving backwards. The worst off in society are being left behind, ignored by the Conservative Government in Westminster.

"A high life expectancy is one of the most basic indications of a society that works for everyone. The fact that the lives of the most deprived, particularly our country's poorest women, are shortening, is a damning indication that the Tories are steering us towards a bleak future.

"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. We are failing that test."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Health inequality is a challenging and complex area and is driven by a variety of factors.‎ Progress is being made - cancer survival rates are at a record high and smoking rates are at an all-time low, but we know there is still too much variation.

"To help we are investing more than £16bn in local government public health services over the current spending period, in addition to free NHS vaccination and screening programmes, as well as funding for campaigns such as Be Clear on Cancer."