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Top Charts 22-06: How have life expectancy and health adjusted life expectancy changed over time?

Question:

How have life expectancy and health adjusted life expectancy changed over time?

Answer:

Both period life expectancy (LE) and health adjusted period life expectancy (HALE)1 have increased over the last two decades, however, their progression have not been identical.

The charts below show the remaining years of LE and HALE from age 60 for men and women in Canada, the UK, and the US. The light purple and green bars represent these values in the year 2000, whereas the dark purple and green bars represent the additional years gained between 2000 and 2019.

Source: Club Vita presentation of figures provided by World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Estimates: Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy.

The increase in HALE between 2000 and 2019 was lower than the increase in LE for both men and women across all three countries. Consequently, we see a consistent pattern of people living longer but spending more time at the end of their lives in poor health.

Key takeaways

  • The expected time spent in good health has not been keeping pace with the increases in life spans.
  • On average, the increase in HALE was lower than LE by approximately 1.1 year for men and 0.9 year for women between 2000 and 2019.
  • The UK saw the largest gains in both LE and HALE, while the US saw the lowest gains between 2000 and 2019.

The key questions are:

  • Will we see a closing of the gap in LE and HALE coming out of the pandemic? Or will the gap widen?
  • With LE increasing, people may need to work longer to afford a comfortable retirement. If HALE does not keep pace with LE, will they be able to?
  • What are the societal impacts of a divergence in LE and HALE?

What do you think?

Notes

1 Life expectancy adjusted for years spent in poor health, a broad measure for years of life expected to be lived in good health.

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