Women 'spend a quarter of life in poor health'

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Women can expect to spend nearly a quarter of their lives in poor health and men a fifth, a Public Health England (PHE) report shows.

Life expectancy for a female in England has now reached 83.1 - but figures reveal 19.1 of these years will be taken up by poor health - around 23%.

Meanwhile, men who can now live on average to the age of 79.5 will spend 16.1 years in poor health, equating to around 20% of their life.

The report from PHE called the Health Profile for England also highlights that low back and neck pain has become the biggest cause of ill health across nearly all ages and both genders.

It also notes that a flu pandemic is the "most significant civil risk facing the UK", with a 5% to 50% probability of an outbreak occurring in the next five years.

PHE director of health improvement, John Newton, said that "although men and women are spending more years in ill health", people are also "spending more years in good health".

"Women still live longer than men, but the gap has closed over time to just 3.6 years," he said.

"However, most of the extra time women have over men in terms of life expectancy is taken up by years spent in poor health."

The report draws together existing data and covers issues such as life expectancy, major causes of death, morbidity trends and inequality in health.

It highlights that people living in the most deprived areas in England have, on average, the lowest life expectancy, while those living in areas with lower deprivation have a higher life expectancy, on average.

"Males living in the most deprived tenth of areas can expect to live nine fewer years compared with the least deprived tenth, and females can expect to live seven years fewer," it adds.

The report also indicates how men and women in the most deprived areas can also expect to spend 20 years fewer in good health compared with those living in the least deprived areas.

Professor Newton said: "For both men and women, almost half the population live in areas where healthy life expectancy is slightly less than the current state pension.

"It is a slightly larger proportion of women than men ... (but) a significant proportion of our population cannot expect to live in their pension age in good health."