'These results should not make for complacency': The King's Fund response to the Office for National Statistics report into ethnic differences in life expectancy

27 Jul 2021 10:03 AM

Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, commented on the Office for National Statistics report into ethnic differences in life expectancy and selected causes of death between 2011 and 2014 

‘This report adds significantly to our understanding of ethnic differences in mortality, brought sharply into focus by the Covid-19 pandemic which had a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority groups.

‘The finding that ethnic minority groups had higher life expectancy than the White population between 2011 and 2014 may come as a surprise to many. Although there are caveats to these results, they are consistent with most other evidence, and provide the most accurate picture within the limitations of the available data.

‘These results should not make for complacency. The headline life expectancy figures bely a complex picture of different ethnic groups being disproportionately affected by different causes of death. For example, White groups had the highest death rates from cancer. In contrast, South Asian and Black ethnic groups had significantly higher death rates from diabetes and some cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

‘These results pre-date the pandemic, and we know that ethnic minority groups suffered a disproportionate number of deaths from Covid-19. The severe impact of the pandemic has reversed the previous picture for some ethnic minority groups, who now have higher overall mortality than the White population.

‘There are multiple factors driving these ethnic differences, and I welcome the Office for National Statistics’ intention to conduct further analysis. Without this type of detailed understanding of the differences between groups, it will not be possible to make progress in reducing health inequalities. That is why it is vitally important that government make ethnicity coding mandatory on all death records.’

Notes to editors

For more information or interview requests, please contact The King's Fund media team on 07584 146035 or mediaoffice@kingsfund.org.uk

Ethnic differences in life expectancy and mortality from selected causes in England and Wales: 2011 to 2014 was published by the ONS on Monday 26 July 2021 and is available to download here.