0421 GMT April 19, 2019
British women now have a healthy life expectancy — the number of years of good health — of 63.9 years, less than the 64.1 years enjoyed between 2009 and 11.
Whilst this is currently the same as for men, the new analysis by Public Health England shows that in contrast to women, male healthy life expectancy has continued to improve over the same period.
The disparity forms part of a wider picture showing British women to be among the sickest in Europe, compared to British men who fair relatively well.
Women from the UK ranked 18 lowest of out 28 EU countries for premature death, whereas UK men were ranked 10th.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are now the leading cause of death among women, amounting for 15.8 per cent of deaths, and experts believe the impact of the disease in damaging life expectancy has doubled in the last seven years.
Women are believed to be disproportionately affected by dementia partly due to genetic reasons, but also because fewer die from heart-related diseases in their 50s and 60.
It means that the men who do not die tend to have better heart health, which is associated with the chances of developing dementia.
Total life expectancy at birth is now 79.5 for men and 83.1 for women, meaning women spend a greater proportion of their life in poor health, but the data shows that since 2011 the gains of recent decades are leveling off.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “We simply don't know what's going to happen to life expectancy in the next few years — we're monitoring it closely.”
Addressing Britain’s international comparison, he added: “We're in the middle of the pack. We'd like to be at the top.
“There's no reason why we shouldn't be as healthy as anywhere in Europe.”
He said tackling obesity would have a significant impact on cancer rates, which contribute to UK women’s relatively poor ranking.
The report also predicts that England will be ‘smoke-free’ by 2030, which in reality refers to smoking rates of less than 10 percent.
The UK currently has the second best smoking rate in the EU.