Life expectancy in Northern Ireland 2020-22

Date published: 06 December 2023

The Department of Health today published the statistical report ‘Life Expectancy in Northern Ireland 2020-22’.

The Department of Health are the official producers of life expectancy figures for Northern Ireland. This report presents the latest estimates of life expectancy, healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy for Northern Ireland. The report includes an analysis of change in life expectancy including the extent to which mortality within certain age groups and causes of death contributed to the change, and inequality gaps. In addition, life expectancy estimates are presented for Trusts and Local Government Districts.

Key Findings

Current Life Expectancy Estimates

  • in 2020-22, life expectancy in Northern Ireland (NI) was 78.4 years for males and 82.3 years for females.
  • since 1980-82, life expectancy at birth has increased by 6.8 years for females and 9.2 years for males. However, over the last ten years life expectancy growth has stalled for both males and females.
  • male life expectancy was highest in the Lisburn & Castlereagh LGD (80.4 years) and lowest in the Belfast LGD (75.8 years).
  • life expectancy for females was highest in the Lisburn & Castlereagh and Mid Ulster LGDs (83.1 years) and lowest in the Belfast LGD (80.4 years).

Decomposition of Life Expectancy Trend over the Last 5 Years

  • since 2016-18, male life expectancy decreased by 0.3 years, while there has been no significant change in life expectancy for females.
  • increased mortality rates among 30-39 year olds had the largest negative effect on male life expectancy over the last 5 years.
  • higher mortality mainly from deaths due to COVID contributed to a 1.1 year decrease in male life expectancy. However, these were mostly offset by decreases in mortality from other causes including respiratory disease, cancer and circulatory disease.
  • a decrease of 1.0 years in female life expectancy, mainly due to higher mortality from deaths due to COVID, was offset by 0.8 years due to reduced mortality from respiratory disease, circulatory disease and other causes. 

Gender Gap

  • in 2020-22, females in NI could expect to live 3.8 years longer than males.
  • across all age groups, male mortality was higher than that of females, most notably within the 70-79 years age group which contributed 0.8 years to the gap.
  • higher male mortality from the combination of circulatory disease (1.1 years) and cancer (excluding breast) (1.1 years) accounted for 2.2 years of the gap.

Deprivation Gap

  • in 2020-22, males living in the 20% most deprived areas of NI could expect to live 74.0 years, 7.2 years less than those living in the 20% least deprived areas (81.2 years).
  • female life expectancy in the 20% most deprived areas was 79.3 years, 4.8 years fewer than females in the 20% least deprived areas (84.1 years).
  • for both males and females, mortality across the majority of causes of death was higher in the most deprived areas than in the least deprived.
  • higher mortality from cancer (1.3 years), circulatory disease (1.2 years) and accidental deaths (1.1 years) combined, contributed just over half of the male life expectancy deprivation gap. There were also notable contributions from deaths due to COVID (0.4 years) and Suicide (0.6 years).
  • mortality from cancer (1.3 years) was the largest single contributor to the female deprivation gap, more than half of which (0.8 years) was due to lung cancer.
  • the combination of lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory conditions were responsible for almost a third of the female deprivation gap.

Healthy and Disability-Free Life Expectancy

  • between 2016-18 and 2020-22, Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) increased for both males and females.
  • male HLE increased by 1.5 years from 59.7 years in 2016-18 to 61.2 years in 2020-22. Over the same period, female HLE increased by 1.9 years from 60.8 to 62.7 years.
  • while female Disability-Free Life Expectancy (DFLE) saw no significant change over the last five years, Male DFLE increased by 1.9 years from 57.3 in 2016-18 to 59.2 years in 2020-22.
  • since 2016-18 the HLE deprivation gap has not significantly changed for males or females and in 2020-22, the gap between the 20% most and least deprived stood at 12.2 years for males and 14.2 years for females.
  • the DFLE gap between the most and least deprived males narrowed from 14.5 years in 2016-18 to 11.1 years in 2020-22. For females, the gap narrowed from 13.9 years in 2016-18 to 11.0 years in 2020-22.

Notes to editors: 

  1. This publication is one of a series of reports produced as part of the NI Health & Social Care Inequalities Monitoring System (HSCIMS) and presents the latest estimates of life expectancy, healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy, along with a comprehensive analysis of health inequality gaps between the most and least deprived areas of NI. 
  2. ‘COVID’ deaths in this report refer to ‘deaths due to COVID-19’ and use the same International Classification of Disease Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes as reported by NISRA within the Registrar General Annual Report.
  3. All life expectancy analyses and calculations are based on official population data and deaths data sourced from the General Register Office and published by NISRA. The analysis in this report is based on the latest published data, which include deaths registered up to 2022 and does not reflect deaths occurring in 2023. Further provisional deaths statistics for more recent years are available from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA) within the Registrar General quarterly Tables published on the NISRA website.
  4. The methodology used to calculate life expectancy is consistent with that used in the HSCIMS bulletins.
  5. A review conducted by NISRA and the Coroner’s Service into the classification of undetermined deaths between 2015 and 2020, has resulted in a series break in suicide deaths, caution should therefore be taken when drawing comparisons with suicide and accidental deaths contributions to life expectancy gaps with years prior to 2015.
  6. Figures contained within this report have been calculated using the rebased population figures released by NISRA Census Office on 29th June 2023. This series replaces the old rolled-forward series which was based on the 2011 Census. The Rebased Mid-Year Population Estimates series reflects the results of Census 2021 and revises all previous population estimates from 2011 to 2021. As a result, some figures within this report may differ from those previously published.
  7. All healthy and disability-free life expectancy analyses and calculations are based on self-reported health data sourced from the Health Survey Northern Ireland (HSNI) and population data published by NISRA. The methodology used to calculate healthy and disability-free life expectancy is consistent with that used in the HSCIMS bulletins.
  8. It should be noted that due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, data collection for the 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 Health Surveys for Northern Ireland moved from face-to-face interviewing to telephone mode. This may have influenced the responses given by respondents. In addition, the sample size has been lower as a result and children have not been included in the survey since 2019/20. As a result, data relating to children in 2019 has been held constant from 2020 onwards.
  9. This publication has been produced within six weeks of the Registrar General Annual Report release from which vital events data related to deaths could be obtained. As such, the figures for 2020-22 contained within this publication are the latest, official release of life expectancy estimates for Northern Ireland.
  10. Inequalities between the 20% most deprived areas and the 20% least deprived areas are measured. These areas are defined according to the 2017 Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure (NIMDM).
  11. All HSCIMS reports and data tables are available to view and download from the Departmental website.
  12. Further information on the Health and Social Care inequalities Monitoring System is available from:

    Public Health Information & Research Branch
    Department of Health
    Annex 2, Castle Buildings
    Stormont, BT4 3SQ
    Tel:      028 90 522501 or 028 90 522591                             
    Web: Department Website 

  13. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by e-mail:

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  15. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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