Research

Literacy and life expectancy

Added 15 Feb 2018

Literacy and life expectancy provides the first overview of the evidence linking literacy and life expectancy in England through the conduits of health and socioeconomic factors.

It builds on the evidence outlined a decade ago in our Literacy Changes Lives report, where we established a relationship between literacy and life chances through the lenses of physical and mental health, economic wellbeing, family life, civic engagement and crime.

This report explores existing research from a wide range of sources, including longitudinal data and analysis, academic journals, and domestic and international surveys, to establish the depth of the relationship between literacy and life expectancy.

Key findings

The report found that children born into communities with the most serious literacy challenges have some of the lowest life expectancies in England:

  • A boy born in Stockton Town Centre (which has some of the most serious literacy challenges in the country) has a life expectancy 26.1 years shorter than a boy born in North Oxford (which has some of the fewest literacy challenges)
  • A girl born in Queensgate, Burnley (which has some of the most serious literacy challenges in the country), has a life expectancy 20.9 years shorter than a girl born in Mayfield, Wealdon (which has some of the fewest literacy challenges)

What’s more, these inequalities even exist within the same communities:

  • In Middlesbrough, a boy born in the ward of North Ormesby (which has some of the most serious literacy challenges in the country) has a life expectancy of 71.4 years, which is 11.6 years shorter than a boy born just 2 miles away in Marton East (which has some of the fewest literacy challenges in the country) who has a life expectancy of 83 years; the gap is 9.4 years for girls (76.5 years vs 85.9 years)