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Inequalities in health expectancies at older ages in the European Union: findings from the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)

Abstract

Background Life expectancy gaps between Eastern and Western Europe are well reported with even larger variations in healthy life years (HLY).

Aims To compare European countries with respect to a wide range of health expectancies based on more specific measures that cover the disablement process in order to better understand previous inequalities.

Methods Health expectancies at age 50 by gender and country using Sullivan's method were calculated from the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe Wave 2, conducted in 2006 in 13 countries, including two from Eastern Europe (Poland, the Czech Republic). Health measures included co-morbidity, physical functional limitations (PFL), activity restriction, difficulty with instrumental and basic activities of daily living (ADL), and self-perceived health. Cluster analysis was performed to compare countries with respect to life expectancy at age 50 (LE50) and health expectancies at age 50 for men and women.

Results In 2006 the gaps in LE50 between countries were 6.1 years for men and 4.1 years for women. Poland consistently had the lowest health expectancies, however measured, and Switzerland the greatest. Polish women aged 50 could expect 7.4 years fewer free of PFL, 6.2 years fewer HLY, 5.5 years less without ADL restriction and 9.5 years less in good self-perceived health than the main group of countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden).

Conclusions Substantial inequalities between countries were evident on all health expectancies. However, these differed across the disablement process which could indicate environmental, technological, healthcare or other factors that may delay progression from disease to disability.

  • Eastern Europe
  • health expectancy
  • pop health indicator

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