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Life Expectancy and Mortality in Wales (2020)

Wales, together with other countries, has seen a stalling in life expectancy and mortality improvements since around 2011. This is a marked change on the steady increase in life expectancy seen since the Second World War. 

This publication describes changes in life expectancy, healthy life expectancy and mortality rates over time in Wales. 

Life expectancy decomposition analysis also highlights the age groups and causes of death that have contributed to this stagnation over time, whilst also exploring their contribution to the increasing inequality gap between areas of deprivation. 

Dr Kirsty Little, Consultant in Public Health, said: 

“This publication highlights an important shift in life expectancy and mortality trends in recent times. Life expectancy is an important indication of the overall health status of a population. Worryingly, the publication also indicates that health inequalities may have increased in recent times too. 

“There are likely to be a number of important factors at play and explaining the recent trends will prove complicated. The period of austerity since 2010/11 may be implicated, and as Sir Michael Marmot’s recent review highlighted, a link between austerity and worsening health and health inequalities is “entirely plausible”. We are committed to working alongside UK and international partners both to monitor the ongoing trends, and to further explore and clarify factors that may be driving the changes we have highlighted.” 

 This publication will be updated as and when new data becomes available. We will keep you informed as to when analyses are updated. 


Key Messages

  • Male and female life expectancy has only increased by 0.2 years and 0.1 years respectively since 2010-12. Prior to this, the increases had been 2.6 years and 2 years respectively between 2001-03 and 2010-12. 

  • The all-cause mortality rate for Wales decreased by almost 20% between 2002 and 2011, however there has been very little change since 2011. 

  • The gap in mortality rates between deprivation quintiles have slightly widened in recent years. 

  • Life expectancy decomposition analysis shows that for both males and females, those aged around 60-84 years were the main contributors to increasing life expectancy but these improvements have slowed down considerably between the periods studied. 

  • Similarly, improvements in circulatory disease mortality rates have slowed down, halving its contribution to increasing life expectancy between the periods studied. 

  • Increased mortality from respiratory disease and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have had a negative contribution on life expectancy improvement.

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