Elderly Wigan women face inequalities in health in retirement

Women in Wigan can expect just nine disability-free years once they reach retirement, figures show.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 11:58 am
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 11:59 am
Charity Age UK says vast inequalities in disability-free life expectancy across the country reflects the disproportionate impact of budget cuts on poorer areas

Charity Age UK says vast inequalities in disability-free life expectancy across the country reflects the disproportionate impact of budget cuts on poorer areas.

Men in the area can expect nine years without a disability, ​but still less than the national average of just under 10 years for both sexes.

Ahead of the state pension age rising to 66 later this year and 67 by 2028, campaigners said the data is an example of the “persistent health inequalities” faced by older people, with the poorest areas being the worst affected.

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Upon retirement, women in Wigan have a total life expectancy of 84.4, meaning they face around 10 years of their retired life disabled.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that across England, women have a disability-free age of 74.8 and a life expectancy of 86.1. Men can expect to be without a disability to 74.9 and live to 83.8.

These disabilities include any long-lasting physical or mental health condition or disability limiting the ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

The figures are an estimate based on contemporary mortality rates and the number of people living disability-free, according to a survey on general health.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Today’s figures are further evidence of the persistent health inequalities experienced by older people across the country.

“The communities which we live in impact how we age, so cuts to local authorities and the Public Health Grant together with the chronic underfunding of the social care system mean that services which help older people stay well are being eroded.

“These cuts have not been evenly shared and people living in the poorest areas have been hit the hardest, leading to growing inequalities.”

Prof Tahir Masud, President of the British Geriatrics Society, said the figures showed that the benefits of longer life were not being seen equally across the population.

He added: “They show clearly that socioeconomic deprivation can have a negative impact on life expectancy and the number of disability-free years one may expect to experience in older age.

“The great variation in health outcomes seen in different parts of the country further highlights the need for greater investment in preventative interventions, something healthcare professionals have long been aware of.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The best way to increase life expectancy and reduce inequalities is to prevent health problems from arising in the first place.

“We’re committed to ensuring people can enjoy at least five extra years of healthy, independent life by 2035 and reducing the gap between the rich and poor. Our NHS Long Term Plan, backed by an extra £33.9 billion in cash terms a year by 2023-24, puts tackling health inequalities at its heart.”

State Pension age is gradually increasing and will reach 67 by 2028. It is going to be kept under review, which means that it could change again in the future, depending on different factors.