A healthy retirement? Fat chance if you live in Manchester, new stats warn

People in parts of Greater Manchester are expected to live almost 15 fewer years of ‘healthy life’ compared to elsewhere in the UK, shocking new statistics have revealed.

As concerning a figure is that people in Manchester city centre are not even expected to reach the traditional retirement ages of 60 and 65 before moving into a phase where their health is neither very good nor good.

And that, coupled with a population where life expectancy is improving, means benefit bills in the city will increase in the future, health experts have warned.

A new report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests that people in Manchester will live 14.5 fewer years of healthy life than people in other areas of the UK.

Life expectancy has improved dramatically over the last century but the rise does not automatically mean that people will live their later years in good health.

Good health means that individuals perceived themselves to be living an illness-free life based on their own estimations.

The report estimates that a baby boy born in Manchester city centre today could expect to live only 58 years in ‘good health’. This leaves a gap of 22 years where they may not be able to work, or are working in ill health.

Sir Muir Gray, former Chief of Knowledge for the NHS, said it predicted the future for many people: “Not only do people in the centre of Manchester not live as long; they may spend more time very dependent on their family or other services because they’ve got some disabling disease.”

The lowest healthy life expectancy for men and women is in the city centre, with men only expected to live 58 years in good health, whilst women fared worse with only 56.8 years.

Out of the ten Greater Manchester authorities, only men in Trafford and women in Stockport are estimated to live in good health past the traditional retirement age.

If people are unable to work before they reach retirement, they may be forced to claim benefits to meet their basic living costs.

Academics at the University of Manchester have found in 2014, 9% of people over 60 in Greater Manchester claimed the guarantee element of Pension Credit. This means their weekly income was under £148.35 for a single person or £226.50 for a couple.

Dr Marian Peacock, a Senior Research Associate in Public Health at Lancaster University, said the report highlighted the ‘structural problems’ which affect people’s healthy life expectancy.

“Certainly for poorer people in all these societies, their health and wellbeing is considerably worse if they are poor in a highly unequal society,” she said.

“That’s been the trajectory, largely speaking, that the UK has become a more and more and more unequal society, pretty much systematically, since the 1970s.

“It has gone up and down a little but largely speaking, the overall slope is to get more and more and more unequal. And inevitably, that will start to impact on the health of people at the bottom of society. “

The report marks a year until Greater Manchester will take full responsibility for its health budget.

The devolution expansion means the 10 councils will have control over health and care spending in the community with a budget of £6 billion.

The rising elderly population has put huge pressure on hospitals that have been unable to discharge elderly patients because cut-stricken local authorities cannot offer them adequate social care.

The announcement for the new system has been met with cautious approval that it will adequately address the needs of an ageing population

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the charity Independent Age, said: “We welcome this pioneering move. Older people are the greatest users of the NHS and social care services, so a key test of proposals in Manchester will be whether they improve the quality of health and care services for older people in the city.”

The report also reinforces fears that the north-south divide is increasing as it shows that the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the West Midlands all have a significantly lower HLE than the England average.

Dr Peacock stressed that any effective initiative must acknowledge the regional inequalities in order to be effective: “If you live in a very deprived area, your health will be worse even if you do all the right things. Some of them [the problems] are structural ones.

“If you live in a poorer area, you’re more likely to be exposed to crime, you’re more likely to be exposed to quality of environment issues – dumping of rubbish, there’s less likely to be lots of trees around – the sort of things that make an environment either subjectively nice and safe or subjectively stressful and frightening for people.

“Despite there being numerous smaller initiatives, this government has had a real reluctance to legislate about the big structural things, so for example, minimum pricing for alcohol.”

Image courtesy of Chris Waits, with thanks.

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