People are living longer, with life expectancy now at 79.5 years for me and 83.1 years for women – but much of that extra time is spent in poor health, new research by Public Health England has revealed.

In the report ‘Health Profile for England,’ PHE has used its wealth of population health data to give an overall picture of the health of England.

It found that people are living longer than ever with life expectancy in England now reaching 79.5 years for males and 83.1 years for females. However, much of the extra time is spent in poor health.

Health inequalities between different population groups are a major theme of the report. In the richest areas, people enjoy nearly 20 more years in good health than people in the poorest areas.

The report covers life expectancy, major causes of death, morbidity trends, European comparisons, inequality in health, social determinants of health and current health protection issues.

Some of the report’s more notable findings include:

  • Life expectancy has increased more than years in good health and therefore the number of years lived in poor health has also increased
  • Diabetes makes the top 10 causes of ill-health and disability (morbidity) for the first time
  • The two biggest risk factors behind levels of ill health are excess weight and high blood sugar
  • Lower back and neck pain are the biggest causes of ill health
  • While deaths from heart disease and stroke have halved since 2001, it’s still the biggest killer of men
  • The biggest killers for women are Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of PHE said: "Good public health is not defined by health policy alone. Our health profiles show a high-quality education, a well-designed and warm home, a good job and a community to belong to are just as important. The more we consider the impact of all policies on population health, the sooner we can focus on preventing poor health instead of only dealing with its consequences, especially for those from the most deprived communities."

Responding to the report, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This ground-breaking PHE analysis shows how deprivation can lead to long-term ill health and premature death for the most deprived.

“We know that those living in the most deprived communities experience poorer mental health, higher rates of smoking and greater levels of obesity than the more affluent. They spend more years in ill health and they die sooner. Reducing health inequalities is an economic and social challenge as well as a moral one.

“Since 2013, local government has been responsible for public health in England and has specific responsibilities to tackle health inequalities as well as improving the public’s health overall.

“Local authorities and their public health teams understand how to use their traditional functions in conjunction with their newly acquired public health expertise to maximise the role councils can play in closing the unjust health inequalities gap. But reductions in councils' public health grants of more than £530 million by the end of the decade will impact on councils' ability to continue this good work.

“Central government has to play its part in reducing poverty and breaking the link between deprivation, ill health and lower life expectancy.”