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Improved mortality rates lead to 20,000 fewer deaths in 2011

The Actuarial Profession has carried out analysis of the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics and found further improvements in longevity in England and Wales, with an overall improvement in the mortality rate of 4%

Put simply, this means that there have been 20,000 fewer deaths last year than would have been expected if the mortality rate hadn’t seen this improvement. The 4% improvement marks an upturn of the average rate of improvement of 2.4% over the 10 years to 2010

Gordon Sharp of the Actuarial Profession said:

“The last 20 years have seen unprecedented improvements in mortality rates, particularly for pensioners.  These figures are initial estimates for 2011, and are subject to revision once ONS publish updated population estimates for the year.  However, we are able to say with confidence that the mortality improvement for 2011 has been well above the average.

“The separate improvement figures for men and women are almost identical, at 4.1% and 4.0% respectively. These compare with average rates of improvement of 2.9 % p.a. and 2.1% p.a. over the 10 years to 2010.  This means that there have been 20,000 fewer deaths than would have been expected if there hadn’t been this improvement. To put this into some kind of context, that’s enough to fill the O2 arena in London.

“It’s also worth noting that, once again, the ‘golden cohort’ of people born around 1931 has shown continued strong improvements of nearly 5%.

“The total number of deaths in England in Wales in 2011 was 484,000. This is a highly significant figure as it marks the third year in a row where the number has been below 500,000, a figure exceeded each year from 1953 to 2008.

“Mortality rates can vary significantly on a year to year basis and it is important not to read too much into one year’s figures. However, as policy makers continue to look for solutions to the challenges faced by an ageing population, it has never been more important to ensure that mortality figures and trends are properly analysed”


Enquiries: Tel. Michael Scanlan on 020 7632 1453 or email

Notes to editors:

  1. Actuaries provide commercial, financial and prudential advice on the management of a business’s assets and liabilities, especially where long term management and planning are critical to the success of any business venture. They also advise individuals, and advise on social and public interest issues.
  2. Members of the Profession have a statutory role in the supervision of pension funds and life insurance companies. They also have a statutory role to provide actuarial opinions for managing agents at Lloyd’s.
  3. The Profession is governed by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. A rigorous examination system is supported by a programme of continuing professional development and a professional code of conduct supports high standards reflecting the significant role of the Profession in society.
  4. The Profession is available to provide expert comment to the media on a range of actuarial- related issues, including enterprise risk management, finance and investment, general insurance, health and care, life assurance, mortality, and pensions.
  5. The analysis was carried out by the Actuarial Profession’s Continuous Mortality Investigation  which carries out research into mortality and morbidity experience. The CMI regularly publishes highly regarded reports and working papers.
  6. The data and figures quoted all relate to the population of England and Wales. Scottish figures from the General Register Office for Scotland will be issued later this year.
  7. The rates of mortality improvement are calculated by comparing an initial estimate of the mortality rate in 2011 with the mortality rates for 2010 and earlier years (published by ONS).  The main calculations use age-standardised mortality rates covering all ages; age-standardised means that the rates have been adjusted to allow for changes from year to year in the age structure of the population, so that the comparisons are on a like-for-like basis.
  8. The calculation of mortality rates uses data on the number of deaths registered in the year and on the size of the population.  The ONS usually publish ‘final’ data for each calendar year around the middle of the following year.  The initial estimates for 2011 have been based on provisional data for death registrations, issued weekly and monthly throughout the year by ONS, and an estimate of the population size and distribution by age.  This population estimate has been produced by linear extrapolation of the trends seen over the last 5 years.
  9. The methodology used for the initial estimate of mortality rates for 2011 has been tested, using data for 1980 to 2010, and found to be a reliable estimator.  The differences between the estimates of annual all-age mortality improvement rates produced using this method and the ‘final’ published figures all lay in the range plus or minus 0.5%.  Given the initial estimate for 2011 of 4.0%, it is therefore likely that the final result will lie in the range 3.5% to 4.5%.