Affluent men in England and Wales are outliving the average woman for the first time since official records began, thanks to the sharp reduction in smoking and the decline in manual work.
The Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday that “higher managerial and professional men” can expect to live for 82.5 years, one month longer than the 82.4 years of life expectancy for the average woman.
The gap between the sexes has narrowed dramatically in the past 30 years, with men gaining an additional seven years in life expectancy since 1986, compared with the four and a half year improvement for women over the same period. But the latest ONS figures, for 2007-11, mask deep inequalities between social classes and geographical areas of the country.
The ONS research found that while male solicitors, actuaries, clergy and surveyors have an average life expectancy of 82.5 years, men working as streetsweepers, fishmongers, welders and window fitters will survive to only 76.6 years.
The interactive data allows users to input their job and gender to see their average life expectancy – with some surprising results. Male fitness instructors have a lower life expectancy (77.9) than the average male journalist (80.8 years).
Meanwhile, female florists (80.8) live shorter lives than female care workers (81.9) and several years less than a female estate agent (84.5 years).
The ONS said: “Historically women have outlived men and back in the early 1980s even those women in the least advantaged socioeconomic group could expect to live longer (at 77.2 years) than the most advantaged group of men (75.7 years).
“Since the 1970s, men have been catching women up in terms of survival. The decline of the mining industry and the move away from physical labour and manufacturing industries towards the service sector is a likely cause, along with a reduction in the proportion of men smoking.”
Men have been slightly more successful than women in giving up smoking, the leading cause of preventable deaths. In 1974, 51% of men smoked cigarettes compared with 41% of women, whereas 22% of men smoked cigarettes in 2013 compared with 17% of women.
But over the same period, inequalities in life expectancy by income have widened for both men and women, with the biggest gains enjoyed by those earning the most, said the ONS.In 1997-2001, the poorest women lived on average 3.8 years less than the richest women. But since then, the figure has widened to 5.3 years, the biggest gap that statisticians have recorded.
Health professionals warn that the epidemic of obesity and diabetes could throw into reverse improvements in lifespans. Public Health England said moderate obesity cuts life expectancy by three years, while the morbidly obese can expect to die eight to 10 years earlier than the average person.
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