A FALL in the healthy life expectancy of women in a county has left council officials stumped.

According to recently compiled data, a woman born in County Durham can expect to live to almost 82, of which she should remain in good health for 58.3 years.

But, while long-term trends have tended to show life expectancy generally creeping up, figures for females have shown a slight fall, down from 58.4 in the previous set of statistics.

“People are living longer, living longer than ever due to improved healthcare, working conditions, improved safety in our homes and on our roads,” said Tom Gorman, Durham County Council’s corporate scrutiny and performance manager.

“In contrast with life expectancy, there is a different picture, a gloomier picture, on healthy life expectancy.

“There’s been a slow increase for men throughout County Durham, though not at the same rate as overall life expectancy, but the rate for women is actually decreasing, the gap is widening.

“There’s something weird happening in relation to women.”

Mr Gorman outlined the statistics in a report to today’s meeting of the county council’s Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, which is being held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Healthy life expectancy is the number of years a person can expect to live without their quality of life being seriously affected by medical issues.

The latest figures for County Durham show men can expect to live 78.3 years, on average, with 59.6 years of healthy life.

The average life expectancy for a woman in the county is longer, at 81.8, but with less healthy life, at 58.3.

While these numbers are roughly in line with North-East expectations, they continue to lag behind the average for England.

Rob Crute, the panel’s chairman, has pledged to monitor future statistics.

Coun Crute said: “Healthy life expectancy for women is a curious one and I don’t really know what’s going on there.

“We see things going in the right direction for life expectancy, for males and females.

“And, while healthy life expectancy is going the right direction for men, it’s not for women.”

He added that while the cause is uncertain, it may be some NHS services have been affected by the pandemic.