Life expectancy in England is now at its highest ever level, although the country also now has the highest prevalence of obesity within the European Union, latest government research has suggested.
The third national Health Profile of England showed death rates from cancer, heart disease and suicides continuing to fall. The number of people smoking has declined, and more people are taking part in physical activity and eating fruit and vegetables. But obesity is continuing to rise, and there are still health inequalities across the country, with a clear north-south divide, said the Department of Health.
The statistics, compiled by the Office for National Statistics, also indicate that the trend in alcohol-related deaths may now be levelling out, with 8,724 in 2007, a reduction on 2006.
A separate government report has also suggested that older people are living longer and, most importantly, healthier lives than a decade ago.
The Opportunity Age Indicators from the Department for Work and Pensions argued that, not only had life expectancy for those over 65 increased, but that healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy at age 65, had also increased.
Dr Tammy Boyce, research fellow in public health at the King’s Fund, said the Health Profile report showed that obesity was now the major long-term challenge facing the nation. “The government and the NHS must continue to focus their efforts on supporting people to change their ingrained bad behaviours and to maintain healthier lifestyles,” she said.