White and mixed ethnic groups ‘don’t live as long’ as other groups, study suggests

White and mixed ethnic groups do not live as long as other ethnic groups on average, a government study has suggested.

Experimental data from the Office for National Statistics found that between 2011 and 2014, people from white and mixed ethnic backgrounds in England and Wales had a lower life expectancy at birth than all other ethnic groups.

People from black African backgrounds were expected to live longer than most other groups.

White people were also more likely to die of cancer than black or Asian people, the analysis showed.

Women tended to live longer than men across all ethnic groups.

For both sexes, death from coronary heart disease was highest among Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian people, and lowest among black ethnic groups.

Julie Stanborough, deputy director health analysis and life events, said: “These results reveal important patterns in life expectancy and mortality by ethnic group which are complex, but nevertheless consistent with most previous studies.”

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“Further research is required to investigate the reasons for the differences,” she added.

She said potential explanations for differences in mortality include past migration patterns, the socioeconomic composition of the groups, health-related behaviours, and clinical and biological factors.

This is the first time the ONS has produced these experimental statistics, which are still being tested and are not yet fully developed.

The data is based on an analysis of 50,189,388 records from the 2011 census, which were linked to death registrations.

White men were expected to live until nearly 80, while men from mixed ethnic groups were expected to live over 79 years.

For women from white and mixed ethnic backgrounds, the figure was 83 years.

Black African women were expected to live nearly 89 years, with the number dropping to close to 84 years for their male counterparts.

Potential reasons for the higher life expectancy found in the black African and Asian ethnic groups include that they contain a higher proportion of more recent migrants than other ethnic groups, with other research finding that migrants tend to be healthier than other people.

Another contributing factor could be that white people are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol.

The study said more research is needed to understand whether living in a deprived neighbourhood has an impact.

Its authors noted that the pandemic may change the figures due to the disproportionate impact it has had on ethnically diverse communities.

The study analysed 1,303,274 deaths that occurred between 27 March 2011 – the day of the 2011 census – and 26 March 2014.

About 95% of people who were counted in the 2011 census were included in the analysis.

Because the death registration process in England and Wales does not collect information about the deceased’s ethnic group, linking death registrations to the census is currently the most reliable way of studying mortality by ethnic group.

The ONS defined mixed ethnic groups as white and black Caribbean, white and black African, white and Asian, and ‘other mixed or multiple ethnic backgrounds’.

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