The average life expentancy for men in the UK has fallen for the first time since records began, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which cites higher numbers of deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic as a key factor.
Life expectancy in the UK has increased steadily since the 1980s when the ONS first started collecting data.
However, the latest figures show that a boy born between 2018 and 2020 is expected to live until he is 79 years old - down from the 79.2 years expected for those born between 2015 and 2017 - marking the first fall in 40 years.
While male life expectancy now matches levels last seen in 2012-2014, female life expectancy remains 'virtually' unchanged at just below 83.
Pamela Cobb, from the ONS's Centre for Ageing and Demography, said: "Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the last 40 years, albeit at a slower pace in the last decade.
"However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a greater number of deaths than normal in 2020.
"Consequently, in the latest estimates, we see virtually no improvement in life expectancy for women compared to 2015 to 2017 at 82.9 years, while for men life expectancy has fallen back to levels reported for 2012 to 2014, at 79 years.
"This is the first time we have seen a decline when comparing non-overlapping time periods since the series began in the early 1980s.
"These estimates rely on the assumption that current levels of mortality, which are unusually high, will continue for the rest of someone's life.
"Once the coronavirus pandemic has ended and its consequences for future mortality are known, it is possible that life expectancy will return to an improving trend in the future."
The figures showed slight variations between the UK's four nations, with male life expectancy in Scotland falling from 77 to 76.8 and female life expectancy from 81.1 to 81.
In Wales, life expectancy for women dropped from 82.3 to 82.1, but remained unchanged for men at 78.3 years.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, life expectancy for both men and women actually rose - from 78.4 to 78.7 for the former, and from 82.3 to 82.4 for the latter.
As Christine Jeavans, a data journalist for BBC News, explained, life expectancy at birth doesn't predict an 'actual lifespan', but instead shows 'the average age a newborn would live to if current death rates continued for their whole life'.
"As Covid death rates are unlikely to continue long-term, today's estimates do not mean a boy born in 2020 will have a shorter life than one born in 2019."
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