Data on health prompts state pension concerns

Data on health prompts state pension concerns

Women are statistically likely to spend 19 years of their lives in poor health, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

With life expectancy for women currently 82.9 years, the findings revealed would have 63 years of good health.

Male life expectancy has also increased in recent years, rising to 79.2 years and the gender gap for healthy life expectancy closed to just five months, with men expected to live for 63.1 years in good health.

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Asim Butt, senior research officer at the ONS, said: "Overall, across the UK, females can expect to live a greater number of years in poor health than males, partly because female healthy life expectancy has slightly fallen while male healthy life expectancy has increased. 

"However, it is important to note that periods of ill-health may not be experienced during the same point in a person’s life, and the majority of years lived with disability for most occur post-retirement age.

"For example, a person may be seriously unwell, but recover and remain healthy for a long period before becoming unwell again."

Ian Browne, pension expert at Quilter, believed the findings highlighted the failings in the state pension.

He said: "The statistics clearly highlight that retirement needs are very individualised and a one size fits all approach is very crude.

"However, conversely as a society we should also look to embrace the principle of everyone being treated equally and fairly – so a regression to different state pension ages for men and women is not appropriate. 

"But that doesn’t mean the Government can bury its head in the sand and ignore this problem because they deem that there are no better solutions."

Mr Browne added: "A more flexible approach could be taken with the state pension where we have a standard state pension age with a standard benefit level.

"Everyone could then have the option to receive a reduced state pension for early access and an increased state pension for late access.

"This would give people who are in need the ability to avoid a situation where they might be too ill to work but only slightly too young to access their state pension."

Scott Gallacher, a chartered financial planner at Rowley Turton, believed the life expectancy issue was more relevant to private pension provisions.

He said: "Women tend to spend less of their working life earning, due to the need for breaks to raise a family. This means they may have less money in their pension pot, which will have an impact if they take advantage of pension freedoms to drawdown. 

"It’s essential women build up a private pension while they can and are healthy to ensure they don’t run out of money in their longer retirement."