Life expectancy

Life expectancy at birth is the average number of years a person can expect to live. This can vary by country, age and gender. Although life expectancy shows the number of years you can expect to live, it doesn't provide a full picture of how healthy those years could be.

How has life expectancy changed by country?

The graph compares life expectancy at birth rates for the UK with select OECD countries over the last 30 years. Life expectancy at birth has increased in all countries over this time period with the UK's life expectancy increasing by 8.2 years from 73.2 in 1980 to 81.4 in 2014.

However, life expectancy at birth in the UK continues to be significantly lower than in many other OECD countries. In 2014, Spain had the highest life expectancy of all the OECD countries at 83.3 years, followed by Italy (83.2 years).

Updated June 2017.

How has life expectancy in the UK changed by gender?

The life expectancy at birth of males and females has increased over time. Though we often expect females to live longer than males, the gap between the sexes has been narrowing. In 1980, the life expectancy of females was 6 years higher than males; in 2014, this gap has decreased to 3.7 years.

Updated June 2017.

How has life expectancy at age 65 changed in UK?

Life expectancy at birth can be sensitive to differences in infant mortality and deaths in young adults, so we also look at the life expectancy of males and females at age 65. Life expectancy at 65 has also increased for both genders over the last 30 years. Between 1980 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 4.7 years amongst females and 6.2 years for males.

Females still have a higher life expectancy at age 65 than males. In 2014 women at age 65 lived on average 2.5 years longer than men.

Updated June 2017.

About this data

Life expectancy is defined as the average number of years that a person can expect to live if he or she experienced the age-specific mortality rates in a given country in a particular year. It does not include the effect of any future decline in age-specific mortality rates.

Countries calculate life expectancy using varying methodologies. These methodological differences can affect the comparability of estimates from different countries.


Would love to know more about the differences in how different countries measure their life expectancy and to what extent this explains some of the results.

Tad Woroniecki (not verified)
(changed )

Add new comment