J Epidemiol Community Health 68:826-833 doi:10.1136/jech-2014-204083
  • Inequalities in health

Drivers of inequality in disability-free expectancy at birth and age 85 across space and time in Great Britain

Open Access
  1. Carol Jagger1
  1. 1Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  3. 3Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  4. 4Geography and Built Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  5. 5MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Pia Wohland, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5PL, UK, pia.wohland{at}
  • Received 25 February 2014
  • Revised 15 April 2014
  • Accepted 21 April 2014
  • Published Online First 6 June 2014


Background Although mortality and health inequalities at birth have increased both geographically and in socioeconomic terms, little is known about inequalities at age 85, the fastest growing sector of the population in Great Britain (GB).

Aim To determine whether trends and drivers of inequalities in life expectancy (LE) and disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) at age 85 between 1991 and 2001 are the same as those at birth.

Methods DFLE at birth and age 85 for 1991 and 2001 by gender were calculated for each local authority in GB using the Sullivan method. Regression modelling was used to identify area characteristics (rurality, deprivation, social class composition, ethnicity, unemployment, retirement migration) that could explain inequalities in LE and DFLE.

Results Similar to values at birth, LE and DFLE at age 85 both increased between 1991 and 2001 (though DFLE increased less than LE) and gaps across local areas widened (and more for DFLE than LE). The significantly greater increases in LE and DFLE at birth for less-deprived compared with more-deprived areas were still partly present at age 85. Considering all factors, inequalities in DFLE at birth were largely driven by social class composition and unemployment rate, but these associations appear to be less influential at age 85.

Conclusions Inequalities between areas in LE and DFLE at birth and age 85 have increased over time though factors explaining inequalities at birth (mainly social class and unemployment rates) appear less important for inequalities at age 85.

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