LIFE expectancy has soared during the last century with medical breakthroughs, vast improvements in working conditions and healthier lifestyles paving the way for an unprecedented increase in the average age of the nation’s population.
Figures published yesterday have revealed that men can now expect to live until 79 while women can hope to enjoy their 83rd birthday.
Throughout the last 100 years, life expectancy at birth has risen by almost three years per decade, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Among men, life expectancy at birth increased from 51 in 1910/1912 to 79 in 2010/12 across England and Wales. The jump in life expectancy among women was from 55 to 83 years throughout the same period.
Officials from the ONS said some of the change was due to falling death rates among babies and children over the last 100 years, but medical advancements, improved conditions at work and healthier lifestyles have all had major impacts.
Experts have also pointed to the better treatment of illness in old age.
The research was conducted by the University of Southampton, before it was analysed by a research team at the ONS.
A senior research officer at the ONS, Julie Mills, who was involved in the analysis, said: “There has been an extraordinary rise in life expectancy throughout the last 100 years, which is unprecedented in England and Wales.
“A century is only a small snapshot in history, but we have seen a huge rise in life expectancy.
“While it is difficult to predict what will happen in the future, it is nonetheless an interesting question to pose.
“With continuing advancements in medicine and changes in lifestyle, it is possible we will continue to see life expectancy increase, but whether it is as the same rate as we have witnessed remains to be seen.”
The data showed that people aged 60 could expect to live about nine years longer in 2010/2012 than 100 years earlier.
Andrew Kaye, the head of policy and campaigns at the older people’s charity Independent Age, admitted that major challenges are faced as life expectancy increases.
Mr Kaye said: “The country’s ageing population is one of the most important issues facing our society.
“The current social care system is under enormous strain.
“If we want the UK to be the best place to grow old in, we need an honest debate about what kind of health, social, housing and transport services we want – and how much as a society we are prepared to pay for them.”