Life expectancy at birth indicates the estimated length of life of a newborn child based on current mortality rates and age at death. As well as being immediately meaningful to most people, life expectancy is an important indicator as it reflects overall trends in mortality across the whole local population, and it is useful to compare across areas and countries. It does not however reflect quality of life and is presented here alongside healthy life expectancy, which does take account of subjective health as well as mortality rates.
Here we present rolling three year averages of life expectancy which smoothes out some of the variation seen in single year data. These figures may change once ONS have revised their population estimates based on the most recent Census.
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Page 3 of the Life Expectancy dashboard shows the data for all our areas over time. Female life expectancy is consistently higher than male life expectancy; the same pattern is seen in the East of England and for England as a whole.
Within Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, we can see clear variations across our areas. Peterborough and Fenland have the lowest life expectancies – both are significantly lower than the England average for men and women. South Cambridgeshire has the highest life expectancy for men and women and our other areas (Huntingdonshire, East Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City) are quite close to each other and better than England.
Over time, life expectancy for both men and women rose between 2001 until approximately 2011, when growth appeared to stall for most areas with the exception of Cambridge for men and South Cambridgeshire for both men and women. Some areas have seen a decrease in life expectancy over the last few years, most notably for men in Fenland, women and men in East Cambridgeshire, and women in Huntingdonshire. There has also been a noticeable increase in female life expectancy in Cambridge in recent years.
While life expectancy everywhere has increased since 2001, we can see that the overall pattern across our area is the same for men and women and has remained the same for the last twenty years; Fenland and Peterborough consistently have had the lowest life expectancy, and South Cambridgeshire the highest.
Page 3 of the dashboard also presents life expectancy at 65. This is a useful indicator because it illustrates the health of older people better than life expectancy at birth. Life expectancy at 65 is higher than life expectancy at birth, because it is only relevant to people who have already lived to 65.
Similar to overall life expectancy, females in all our areas have longer life expectancy at 65 than males. For Cambridgeshire as a whole, women aged 65 can expect an average of 22.1 more years of life and the male average is 19.6 years (Peterborough: 20.7 for women and 18.5 for men). The same geographical patterns are seen in our area as for full life expectancy: South Cambridgeshire has the highest life expectancy at 65, and Peterborough and Fenland have the lowest, for both men and women.
Again, while there were steady increases in the early 2020s, this increase has largely stalled in most of our areas, although there has been a steep increase in Cambridge City for males as well as females.
Page 3 of the dashboard has a button at the top of the page for comparison of our areas with their statistical nearest neighbours. For females, South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge have the highest life expectancy in their statistical neighbour group. Other areas tend to sit somewhere in the middle of the range. For males, South Cambridgeshire again has the highest life expectancy in its neighbour group, but the other areas are mid-range.
Healthy life expectancy
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Page 2 of the dashboard shows healthy life expectancy. This indicator is an extremely important summary measure of mortality and morbidity in itself and is calculated based on both life expectancy and self-rated health (see here for more information). Healthy life expectancy shows the years a person can expect to live in good health (rather than with a disability or in poor health).
Healthy life expectancy is one of the key overarching outcomes for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Health and Wellbeing / Integrated Care System Strategy.
It not available at lower tier local authority level.
For both males and females, Peterborough’s healthy life expectancy at birth is lower than Cambridgeshire and lower than the England average (significantly lower than England for females). Healthy life expectancy at birth for females in Cambridgeshire is a surprising 8.5 years longer than for females in Peterborough. If district-level data was available for healthy life expectancy, we would expect to see considerable variations within Cambridgeshire in the same way that we have seen for standard life expectancy.
The trend chart shows that healthy life expectancy has fluctuated over the years for which data is available, but overall has not improved over the last decade for either males or females.
Female healthy life expectancy is not always longer than male healthy life expectancy, in contrast to the pattern seen with standard life expectancy measures.
Healthy life expectancy at 65
Healthy life expectancy at 65 is an important summary measure of the mortality and morbidity in those aged 65 years and over. It represents the number of years an average person can expect to live in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health after aged 65.
For females, the healthy life expectancy at 65 is similar to England for Peterborough, but better than England for Cambridgeshire. In contrast, for males, it is similar for both areas.
Male healthy life expectancy at 65 has increased substantially in recent years for Peterborough and has overtaken the healthy life expectancy for Cambridgeshire males. For females, both areas have increased considerably over recent years.
Inequalities in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy
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Page 4 of the dashboard shows data on inequalities in life expectancy at birth. The slope index of inequality (SII) is a measure of the social gradient in life expectancy and compares life expectancy in the least deprived area with that of the most deprived area – in other words, how much life expectancy varies with deprivation.
This is a key high-level health inequalities outcome. It shows inequalities within areas, whether that is England as a whole or within local areas. Areas that include neighbourhoods that are very deprived as well as those that are very comfortable are more likely to have a higher slope index of inequality than areas where neighbourhoods vary less.
Within Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, inequalities in life expectancy at birth for both males and females are highest in Cambridge. Males born in the least deprived areas of Cambridge can expect to live twelve years longer than those born in the most deprived areas (females 11.8 years). There is a big range of values for the slope index of inequality in life expectancy, with relatively little inequality in life expectancy in males in South Cambridgeshire.
Inequalities in life expectancy at 65 shows a similar pattern, with Cambridge experiencing the greatest inequality linked to deprivation. At age 65, men in the most deprived areas of Cambridge have a life expectancy of 10.1 years less than men in the least deprived areas (for women, 9.5 years).
For females, the inequalities in life expectancy at birth were highest in Cambridge with 12 years and lowest in South Cambridgeshire (3 years) and Fenland (3 years). This is compared to East of England with 6 years and England with 8 years. Similarly, for males, the highest was also Cambridge with 12 years, and lowest was South Cambridgeshire (2 years). This is compared to East of England with 8 years and England at 10 years.
For inequalities in life expectancy at 65, a similar pattern is shown as inequalities in life expectancy at birth. The inequalities in life expectancy at 65 for females were highest in Cambridge (10 years) and lowest in South Cambridgeshire (1 year) and Fenland (2 years), compared to 4 years for East of England and 5 years for England.
Similarly, for males, the highest was also Cambridge (10 years) and lowest were South Cambridgeshire (1 year) and Fenland (2 years), compared to 4 years for East of England, and 5 years for England.
Local health data on life expectancy
Data on life expectancy is available at small area level; the Local Health dashboard opens in a new page and allows users to see shaded maps of life expectancy (page 2) which emphasises the range of life expectancy across our area.
The dashboard also allows users to create scatterplots showing life expectancy against deprivation (page 4). Plotting the data in this way shows a striking overall relationship between increasing levels of deprivation and decreasing life expectancy, which is stronger for men than for women. Men in our least deprived areas have a life expectancy at birth between 80 to 85, sometimes higher; much longer than the life expectancy between 75 to 80 for men in our most deprived areas. Women’s life expectancy at birth is higher than men’s but a similar pattern can be seen; women in our least deprived areas have a life expectancy around 85 to 90, sometimes higher, but in the most deprived areas this falls to 80 to 85.
There is an unusually high value for female life expectancy in Warboys and Bury (part of Huntingdonshire); we are not sure at present why this is but will look into this further.