How ill health is turning retirement into hard work

The average man or woman will spend their entire retirement in ill health, a watchdog has warned.

Back and neck pain, driven by sedentary lifestyles, as well as mental health problems and skin diseases are the main causes of sickness and disability, according to a report by Public Health England (PHE).

While life expectancy in England has reached 79.5 years for men and 83.1 for women, much of the extra time is spent in poor health, it warned.

John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said: “A significant proportion of our population cannot expect to live to their pension age in good health.”

The average woman has poor health from the age of 64, and the average man from 63 and five months, according to the new figures. By 2020, the age at which both men and women can collect their state pension will be 66, and by 2046 it will be 68.

Professor Newton added: “It’s an important statistic . . . it does have implications for our policy on work and how long we should expect people to carry on working. Our task is to present these data for policymakers so that debate can be based on the best possible data.”

He said there was a “toxic cocktail of causes of loss of independence in older people”, including back pain and falls reducing mobility, confusion brought on by dementia and problems such as deafness and blindness that left people isolated and less able to look after themselves.

The Health Profile for England, released yesterday, contains data on every aspect of population health. It found lower back and neck pain was the largest cause of disability and ill health in both sexes across almost all age groups.

Natalie Carter, of Arthritis Research UK, said: “Too often it’s dismissed by society as ‘aches and pains’, but neck and back pain can have a devastating impact on everyday life.”

The report also showed that in the richest areas, people enjoy nearly 20 more years in good health than people in the poorest areas.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “Our health profiles show a high-quality education, a well-designed and warm home, a good job and a community to belong to are just as important. The more we consider the impact of all policies on population health, the sooner we can focus on preventing poor health instead of only dealing with its consequences.”

The report also revealed for the first time that diabetes was one of the top ten causes of ill health and disability, and that the two biggest risk factors behind levels of ill health are excess weight and high blood sugar.

Mr Selbie said: “There is responsibility at all levels, and that includes the individual . . . but the more affluent you are, the wider your choices. And there are many other factors that are affecting people that are in debt, not earning a good income, have a whole lot of other stresses going on in their life. And we should be concerned about that because there is stuff we can do about it.”

He rejected claims that he was nannying people, saying: “It is not about telling people what to do — going around cutting cigarettes out of people’s mouths and saying they should not be drinking. I have never ever said that . . . This really is just about getting information and knowledge to people.”

Top ten causes of illness and disability in England

1 Lower back and neck pain

2 Skin diseases

3 Depressive disorders

4 Sense organ diseases

5 Migraine

6 Anxiety disorders

7 Falls

8 Diabetes

9 Chronic kidney disease

10 Other musculoskeletal issues

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Mark Miller

Extreme travel is the name of my game and I love to get that adrenaline pumping. Blogging and blagging my way across the world one country at a time... come join me!

Health and Medicine