Health officials said life expectancy in England fell to its lowest level in nearly a decade due to excessive deaths from the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Public Health England (PHE) said the “very high number” of excessive deaths caused life expectancy to decrease by 1.3 years for men and 0.9 years for women.
The organization said this was the lowest life expectancy since 2011 for either sex.
PHE released its Health Profile Report for England 2021 on Wednesday, which provides the most comprehensive overview of the nation’s health.
It said that life expectancy inequality between the most and least deprived areas was greater for both sexes than in any previous year for which PHE has data, and therefore covers the past two decades.
His report states: “This shows that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in life expectancy through deprivation.
“Covid-19 was the leading contributor to the gap in 2020, however higher mortality from heart disease, lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases in deprived areas remained important drivers.”
Elsewhere in its report, PHE said dementia and Alzheimer’s remain the leading cause of death in England in women and the third leading cause in men.
Dementia was reported as the main pre-existing condition in around a quarter of all Covid-19-related deaths between March and June 2020 between March and June 2020, the report said.
As of June this year, there were around 35,000 fewer people aged 65 and over with a diagnosis of dementia, PHE said, possibly attributing that decrease to higher deaths among people with dementia during the pandemic, as well as limited access to diagnostic services.
According to the report, half of people with worsening health between May 2020 and January 2021 did not seek treatment, mainly because they did not want to increase pressure on the NHS or out of fear of contracting the virus.
PHE said there has been an “unprecedented” increase in deaths from alcohol use, up 20% last year compared to 2019.
The report also noted the “profound impact” of the pandemic on young people’s lives through “isolation and educational disruptions”.
It states: “Some of these impacts will be longer term and there is no data to measure them yet.”
In conclusion, PHE said: “The report highlighted how the direct effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have disproportionately affected people from ethnic minorities, people living in deprived areas, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.
“There has been a significant indirect impact on children’s education and mental health, as well as on employment opportunities across the life-course, but especially on younger people working in sectors such as hospitality and entertainment.
“In addition, it is clear that access and use of a number of health services have been disrupted during the pandemic and the long-term effects have not yet been recognized.”
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