British women have the second shortest life expectancy in western Europe and spend an average of 19 years in poor health, a new report from Public Health England has revealed.
Females in the UK can expect to live for 82 years and nine months - that's five months shorter than the previous year and almost three years behind Spain, where women live longest. Only Denmark had a lower female life expectancy, with Slovenia, Greece and Malta also ahead of Britain. Southern European countries, including Italy and France, had the highest life expectancy in 2015.
Although the life expectancy for men is lower at 79 years and two months, this is above the average in western Europe. UK males were ranked 10th and higher than the EU average while females were ranked 17th and below the EU average.
Within the UK, the PHE report found that England had the highest life expectancy for both males and females, followed by Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Professor Peter Goldblatt, of University College London's Institute for Health Equity, told the Mail on Sunday that the findings could be linked to a legacy of heavy smoking by British women since World War Two.
He said: "Women in this country started smoking in large numbers during the Second World War, when they began to work in factories. So the epidemic of smoking among women happened earlier [in Britain] than among women in other European countries."
While the report shows that deaths from heart disease and stroke have halved for both sexes since 2001, deaths among women from lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease have risen, along with deaths resulting from complications of dementia and Alzheimer's.
The report also identified a strong link between wealth and health. Men living in more deprived areas of England could expect to live nine years less than men in the least deprived areas, and for women, seven years less.
"This all comes together to remind us again that good health is about much more than good health care," Public Health England said. "And that for most people, the ingredients for a healthy life are relatively straight-forward: a good education, a good job, a healthy diet, a suitable roof over your head and people to care for and about."