Women have increasingly taken up unhealthy lifestyles (Source: Getty)
Female life expectancy among the over-60s in the UK has stopped rising for the first time in two decades, and for some age groups it has actually gone down, a new study shows.
Women aged 65 had the same life expectancy in 2011 and 2013, while older women experienced a slight fall during the two year period. For those aged 75 and 95, life expectancy decreased by five weeks, while there was a 10 week decrease for those aged 85.
The results, released by Public Health England, show the first decline since 1995 for 65-year-olds, and the first in nine years for 75-year-olds. The researchers called the findings “statistically significant” but said they do not yet have enough information to determine whether this is the start of a long-term downward trend.
Female life expectancy in 2011 (years)
Female life expectancy in 2013 (years)
Change in life expectancy
The study also found a slight decrease in life expectancy among males, but it was not as significant and only found in the oldest age groups.
What's happened to women's health?
According to one expert, the fall is largely because of women's lifestyle choices, as they increasingly adopt unhealthy habits previously favoured by men, such as smoking and drinking.
“One of the issues we have seen is women living lifestyles [that are] becoming more like those of men over recent decades, with more smoking and drinking,” said professor John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health.
He also suggested poor standards in care homes and reduced home help could be contributing factors: "There has been a failure of successive governments in that we should have seen that trends were changing, that more people would be living longer and we needed to put services in place to look after them."