Life expectancy dropped by up to three years in areas of the North in the 17 years before the pandemic, leaving communities more vulnerable to Covid, a new report has suggested.
Imperial College London found that between 2010 and 2014, longevity began declining for women in one in 20 English communities before speeding up to one in five between 2014 and 2019.
Likewise for men, in the five years before the pandemic, one in nine communities saw a fall in life expectancy.
Researchers found that many of the worst affected areas were in the urban North of England, such as parts of Leeds, where female life expectancy fell from 78.7 years to 75.6 years between 2002 and 2019.
The biggest drop for men was in Blackpool, where longevity dropped from 68.7 years to 68.3 years.
Yorkshire and the Humber also saw worrying declines, while many areas of the South in contrast gained lifespan.
Women live 20 years longer in affluent areas
The report showed that by 2019, there was about a 20-year gap in life expectancy for women living in communities with the highest and lowest life expectancies.
One region of Camden, north London, had a life expectancy of 95.4 years for women, compared with a community in Leeds with a life expectancy of 74.7 years.
For men, the gap was 27 years, with life expectancy in one area of Kensington and Chelsea at 95.3 years, compared to 68.3 years in a part of Blackpool.
Although recent data from the Office for National Statistics found that life expectancy for men in the UK had fallen for the first time in 40 years because of the pandemic, the research showed that life expectancy was declining in many communities years before the pandemic began, and largely in areas which also suffered worse during Covid.