Inequalities in healthy life years in Europe

How enjoyable old age is depends on many factors. In old age we reap the benefits and disadvantages of what has gone before. Diet, smoking, alcohol intake, exercise, family life, financial prudence and all the other boring things for young people.
Jagger et al in the Lancet discuss this aspect of life.
Life expectation is slowly increasing throughout the European Union (EU), both at birth and at 65 years. a greater number of elderly people are living longer. There is a significant gap between Eastern and Western EU countries.
Increasing life expectation does not necessarily mean a healthier population. Health expectation is a concept developed to bring a quality of life measure of life expectation (Healthy life years (HLY). People should have a healthy active old age. Not an extension of morbidity.
In 2005, an average 50-year-old man in the 25 EU countries could expect to live until 67 years free of activity limitation, and a woman to 68 years. HLYs at 50 years for both men and women varied more between countries than did life expectancy (HLY range for men: from 9-1 years in Estonia to 23-6 years in Denmark; for women: from 10 years in Estonia to 24 years in Denmark). Gross domestic product and expenditure on elderly care were both positively associated with HLYs at 50 years in men and women); however, in men alone, long-term unemployment was negatively associated and life-long learning positively associated with HLYs at 50 years of age.
The authors concluded that substantial inequalities in HLYs at 50 years exist within EU countries. That, without major improvements in population health, the target of increasing participation of older people into the labour force will be difficult to meet in all 25 EU countries-
Jagger et al 2008 Inequalities in healthy life years in the 25 countries of the European Union in 2005: a cross-national meta-regression analysis Lancet 2124-2131

Martin Eastwood
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