Platinum Jubilee generation ‘have seen huge changes over their lives’

The Institute for Fiscal Studies looked at how the lives of people who turn 70 this year have turned out, including their health and wealth.

30 May 2022

More than four-fifths (85%) of the “Platinum Jubilee generation” are homeowners and around one in seven have a second home, according to a think-tank.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) looked at how the lives of people who turn 70 this year have turned out, to shed light on the social and economic changes that have taken place during the Queen’s reign.

Of those born in 1952, 76% of men and 84% of women are still alive, making it to age 70, the IFS said.

This compares with just 34% of men and 45% of women who were born in 1882 and made it to their 70th birthday in 1952.

The Platinum Jubilee generation turning 70 now can typically expect to live until 86 if they are a man and 88 if they are a woman.

A small but growing share can hope to receive a royal greeting on their 100th birthday.

Of the Jubilee generation alive today, just over one in 40 men and just under one in 20 women are expected to still be alive in 2052.

Those born in 1952 have, on average, been better off during their lives than their fellow citizens, having seen substantial income growth and house price booms over their lifetime, the IFS said.

This generation benefited from the strong growth in earnings in the 1980s and 1990s in particular, and from the increasing generosity of the state pension in more recent years, according to the think-tank.

When they were 25, at the time of the Silver Jubilee, their average incomes were £12,500 (in 2020–21 prices), compared with an average of £10,700 for the whole of the UK.

Their income peak came after the Golden Jubilee when, in 2005, they had average incomes of £27,800, £5,700 higher than the UK average.

They now have typical incomes of £26,400 per year, £1,500 more than the average.

Some 14% own a second home.

In 1952, the average property price was £2,000 (around £40,000 in today’s prices), rising to £13,000 by 1977 (around £64,000 in today’s prices).

The average house price now is around £260,000.

But not all are well off and 18% were in relative income poverty before the coronavirus pandemic, although this is lower than national average of 22%.

In 1977, the Silver Jubilee year, those over state pension age were more than twice as likely to be poor than those under state pension age.

Despite their relative wealth, some in the Platinum Jubilee generation suffer from poor health as they approach the big 7-0.

More than a third (35%) are on medication for high blood pressure and 7% say their health is poor.

Some 15% have a degree or equivalent higher education, a proportion which is much lower than younger generations.

Around three-quarters are married, 10% are widowed and 11% are divorced or separated from a partner.

David Sturrock, senior research economist at IFS, said: “The Platinum Jubilee generation, those born as the Queen came to the throne, have seen huge changes over their lives.

“Life expectancy at age 70 has risen by six years between 1952 and today.

“Incomes and house prices have grown dramatically, making this generation the richest to date.

“While 43% of them were regular smokers at some point in their lives, just 9% smoke regularly today.

“These changes reflect some of the big economic and social shifts that have happened in the UK since the 1950s.

“These changes also bring with them challenges, as younger generations are much less likely to be homeowners and face a future in which we aim to rapidly reduce the environmental impact of our economy while providing for an ageing population.”

Sarah Wilkinson, evidence officer at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “The research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing the progression of the Platinum Jubilee generation is welcome in showing that this generation have an improved quality of life compared to the generations that preceded them.

“But we should also not forget ageing in England is not a level playing field, as evidence from our recent state-of-ageing 2022 report shows. Inequalities within older generations are some of the most extreme in society today and continue to deepen.

“Where we live and our wealth, or lack of it, are massive factors in determining our futures.

“There are up to 10 years difference in life expectancy and more than 17 years difference in time spent in good health without a disabling illness, based on our postcode and our bank balance. Such stark inequality must change.”

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