Living longer, more years in poor health
Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at birth: by sex, GB
The population of Great Britain has been living longer over the past 20 years, but the extra years have not necessarily been lived in good health. Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy (expected years of life in good or fairly good health) both increased between 1981 and 2001, with life expectancy increasing at a faster rate than healthy life expectancy.
Life expectancy is higher for females than for males. In 2001 the life expectancy at birth of females was 80.4 years compared with 75.7 years for males. However, life expectancy for males has been increasing faster than for females. There was an increase of 4.8 years in male life expectancy between 1981 and 2001. For females the corresponding increase was 3.6 years.
The gap in healthy life expectancy between males and females is smaller than for total life expectancy. In 2001, healthy life expectancy at birth was 67.0 years for males and 68.8 years for females, a gap of 1.8 years.
The difference between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy can be regarded as an estimate of the number of years a person can expect to live in poor health. In 1981 the expected time lived in poor health for males was 6.5 years. By 2001 this had risen to 8.7 years. Females can expect to live longer in poor health than males. In 1981 the expected time lived in poor health for females was 10.1 years, rising to 11.6 years in 2001.
Sources: Government Actuary’s Department for expectation of life data. ONS for healthy life expectancy data Notes: The charts show life expectancy (LE) & healthy life expectancy (HLE) estimates based on a 3yr moving average plotted on the central year. HLE data for ‘96, ‘98 and ‘00 are unavailable because the General Household Survey (GHS) was not carried out in ‘97 and ‘99. HLE incorporates an adjustment to LE using information from survey sources for ill health to arrive at expected years of healthy life. A full description of the methodology and sources used in ONS’ calculations of HLE can be found in Health Statistics Quarterly 07. The health status ‘good’ or ‘fairly good’ is taken from the response to the GHS question 'Over the last 12 mths would you say your health has on the whole been good, fairly good or not good?' This is hence a subjective measure and the meanings attached by respondents to the categories may have changed over time due to medical advances.