We've been hearing about the prospect of all people living longer than ever before in recent years, but new research has found that women's life expectancies are on the decline. Recent survey data from Public Health England found that women in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s all had declines in their life expectancies the likes of which haven't been seen since 1995. According to the data, a woman who is currently 85 years old can expect to live 6.8 more years — but back in 2013, that same 85-year-old woman would have lived longer by two and a half months. . For their male counterparts, life expectancy has flatlined for those in their 60s and 70s and fallen for those in their 80s and 90s.
Over the past 30 years, the life expectancy of men has risen 1.2 percent and .7 percent for women, but this steady increase may be behind us. If these findings end up being replicated over and over again, with the life expectancy of women (and men) falling as time goes on, we may be seeing an end to the hope of our lifespans increasing beyond what they already are.
Wondering why life expectancies are on the decline? The studies authors speculate it is because of unhealthy habits and lifestyle choices. John Ashton, president of UK Faculty Public Health thinks that it's the effects of accumulation of changes in diet over the baby boomer generation that are now catching up with them. “One of the issues we have seen is women living lifestyle’s becoming more like those of men over recent decades, with more smoking and drinking,” he commented.
In addition, Ashton thinks that the decrease in social welfare programs and community support could be a reason for this change. He blames our governments oversight in ensuring social support for the ageing population, saying, "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." Charity director of Age UK Caroline Abrahams also commented on this, saying that the decrease should be taken as a huge red flag. "This decrease in life expectancy, after many years of improvement....is telling us that something has changed for the worse, so that fewer people are thriving in later life than they could or should." she told The Telegraph. "The most obvious likely culprit is the rapid decline of state-funded social care in recent years."
However, in order to truly understand what this data is telling us, the researchers have said they will need to look at the data from last year in order to paint a more accurate picture. Furthermore, it's definitely worth noting that this study's data comes from the UK — which means that life expectancies might be different for those in other countries (like the United States, for example). In the meantime, though, if you're worried about the expectancy of your lifespan, here are a few ways you can ensure the odds are ever in your favor.
1. Get Your Vaccines
Although vaccination has been a controversial issue over the last few years, the National Institute on Ageing points to vaccinations as one of the biggest reasons that life expectancy improved in the last century. So make sure you're up to date on your shots and take a trip to your doctor if you're unsure.
2. Eat Fish
Eating fish has amazing health benefits, which of which is an increased lifespan. Studies have shown that eating fish one or two times per week can eliminate your risk of having a fatal heart attack by more than 33 percent. Let this be your reason to stock up on salmon!
3. Stop Smoking
If you're under 30, you might even be able to get rid of the nasty side effects of this habit completely: A study published in the British Medical Journal found that those who quit smoking before they turned the big 3-0 can have the same rate of survival as their nonsmoking counterparts.
4. Get Out of the House
People who have strong social and community ties tend to live longer than those who don't. So get off of Instagram and Snapchat and go out into your community: Volunteer, go to a Meetup group, or check out an art gallery. Do things that will draw you closer in to the world around you.
5. Take a Vacation
As if you needed another reason to take a girls trip- now you can chalk it up to increasing your lifespan! Research has shown that those who take more vacations live longer and can cut their risk of death by 20 percent. So go ahead and plan your getaway!