Devon has seen an increase in life expectancy for girls, new figures show.

On average, life expectancy for those born between 2020 and 2022 was lower than in 2017 to 2019 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Experts said the decrease has been “predominantly driven by the coronavirus pandemic”, which led to “increased mortality in 2020 and 2021”.

Office for National Statistics figures show life expectancy for girls born between 2020 and 2022 stood at 84.8 years – an increase from 84.4 years in 2017 to 2019, before the pandemic.

However, life expectancy for boys born in the same period stayed the same at 80.7 years.

Overall, life expectancy at birth in the UK was 78.6 years for males and 82.6 years for females – a fall from 79.3 and 83 years.

But a fall in life expectancy does not mean a baby born between 2020 and 2022 will go on to live a shorter life than one born in earlier periods.

The average lifespan of a person is determined by changes in mortality rates across their lifetime, meaning that if rates improve, life expectancy will go back up, the ONS said.

Julie Stanborough, ONS deputy director of health and life events, added there is also a clear geographical divide when it comes to areas with the best and worst outcomes.

She said: “None of the 10 local areas with the highest life expectancy were located in the north of England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

“By contrast, of the 10 local areas with the lowest life expectancy, none were in the south of England.”

There was a gap of more than a decade between the local areas with the highest and lowest male life expectancy, and more than seven years between the top and bottom areas for female life expectancy.

Male life expectancy was the highest in Hart in Hampshire, at 83.7 years, while Kensington and Chelsea had the highest female life expectancy, at 86.3 years.

Veena Raleigh, senior fellow at The King’s Fund charity, which works to improve health and care in England, said inequality has widened due to “the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people living in deprived areas”.

She added: “Differences in life expectancy are driven by socio-economic inequalities, including levels of income, education, housing and employment, with people in more deprived areas having significantly shorter lives on average than people in less deprived areas.

“Bold strategies for reducing deadly risk factors such as smoking and obesity, earlier diagnosis and treatment of ill-health and a cross-government strategy for tackling the determinants of ill-health in poor communities should be top priorities – because behind these statistics are the devastating impacts they have on individuals, families, communities and society at large.”

In 2020 to 2022, the English regions with the highest and lowest male life expectancy, respectively, were the South East (80.1 years) and the North East (77.2 years), while the figure stood at 80 years in the South West.

Meanwhile, the areas with the highest and lowest female life expectancy were the South West (83.9 years) and the North East (81.2 years).

David Finch, assistant director of healthy lives at the Health Foundation, said: “The latest estimates highlight the extent to which there were high Covid-19 mortality rates in more deprived areas, which also tend to have worse underlying health, exacerbating inequalities.

“Improving health, and reducing inequalities, needs long-term cross-government action – across the building blocks of health, such as good-quality jobs and housing, as well as wider public services.”