According to the ONS the apparently inexorable increase in our healthy longevity has suddenly reversed.
Why? Well the experts blame obesity, heavy drinking plus failings in health care.
Taking the length of time people over 65 can remain healthy the number of years has dropped from 11.2 to 10.9 for women and from10.6 to 10.3 years for men.
And for babies born today they can expect to live longer but they may not stay healthy for as many years as previously, down from 64.1 year to 63.2 years for a girl and from 63.9 years to 63.3 years for a boy.
The sad news is that a girl born in the last couple of years may live to the ripe old age of 83 but will spend the last 20 years of her life with a disability or long-term illness.
The charity Age UK admits the figures are worrying as we all want to live as well as we can for as long as we can. They say “We can’t afford to ignore any signs that health in later life may be getting worse rather than improving …. we need to ask serious questions about why people are not thriving as well as they could or should in older age”
Rudi Westendorp, professor of old age medicine at the University of Copenhagen thinks earlier diagnosis means people have long-term conditions diagnosed earlier. “(Although) disease-free life expectancy is going down it shows we are on the ball and can prevent further mishaps”
Baroness Greengross, CEO of the International Longevity Centre. said may elderly people were learning to live rewarding lives while managing long-term conditions. “The exception is dementia which is the modern equivalent of the plague in the middle ages. That is our greatest challenge”.
So it’s partly up to us to stay healthy by looking after ourselves, our genes notwithstanding. Where did I put that glass of red wine?