UK Life Expectancy

August is generally a quiet time for news headlines in the United Kingdom, which probably explains why two recent – and quite separate – sets of data on the nation’s life expectancy figures have received so much media coverage over the last few weeks.

The first publication was published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the 7th August; the second report was provided by the University of Southern California and Princeton University, and was covered on the NHS website on the 16th August 2018. 

Both items of research are in-depth reviews of a complex and detailed topic, and as such are relatively difficult to report in generic terms. In such cases the mainstream media have an understandable tendency to focus their reporting on one headline issue of relevance to the majority of the British audience. In this case the focus was on the comparison of UK life expectancy increases with those of other leading nations. 

From the data provided it does appear undeniable that the increases in life expectancy experienced in the UK over recent years are now slowing down. Indeed the ONS summary includes the following wording:

“Between 2011 and 2016, the UK experienced one of the largest slowdowns in improvements in life expectancy at birth and at age 65 years for both males and females out of the countries analysed.”

Yet this does not necessarily mean that UK life expectancy is actually worsening - just that the increases to life expectancy are reducing. This rather nuanced point is actually very important indeed.

The reality is that life expectancy in the UK is today much better than it was when many of the nation’s current workforce entered the workplace in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and indeed also significantly better than the figures seen at the very start of the 21st century. And this simple truth should be shaping the thinking of many employers with regard to their employee benefits offerings. 

So which areas should employers focus on?

Firstly, and importantly, it’s worth pointing out that workers diagnosed with a major illness are now more likely to make a successful return to the workplace than they once were. Employers looking to provide a relevant and valuable employee benefits offering should therefore focus on those benefits that will ensure quick and convenient treatments, coupled with an early return to work for their employees. It follows that making sure that the employee’s income during the period of absence is adequately insured is also important.

The second conclusion is that the vast majority of workers can now reasonably expect to reach retirement age, and therefore the need for retirement savings is perhaps even more pressing than it once was. Employers should therefore focus on supporting their employees on this journey by ensuring that a quality pension scheme – and supporting advice and guidance – is available to all workers.

For more information on these issues please speak to one of our local consultants near you.