As life expectancy continues to increase, it is important to measure what proportion of these additional years of life are being spent in favourable states of health or in poor health and dependency. Healthy life expectancy (HLE) helps us to address this question by adding a dimension of quality of life to estimates of life expectancy.
HLE estimates the average number of years a person would live in ‘Very good’ or ‘Good’ health if he or she experienced the specified population’s particular age-specific mortality and health status for that time period throughout the rest of his or her life.
Using Annual Population Survey data in combination with death registrations, HLE for males and females in 2009-11 was highest in Richmond upon Thames, at 70.3 years and 72.1 years respectively.
Manchester had the lowest HLE for males, 15.3 years lower than Richmond upon Thames, at 55.0 years. The lowest HLE estimate for females was in Tower Hamlets at 54.1 years, 18.0 years lower than Richmond upon Thames.
Geographic inequality in HLE
A North-South divide in HLE exists, with those in the South expected to live longer in ‘Good’ health than those in the North, on average. The extent of this divide is shown with HLE in the North East being significantly lower than all other regions for both males and females. In addition, no authorities in the South East, South West or East regions featured in the bottom ten upper tier local authorities (UTLAs) for HLE for either gender.
The ‘within region’ difference between authorities varies considerably, with London having the greatest inequality, 14.6 years for males and 18.0 years for females. The smallest ‘within region’ inequality occurred in the South West for males at 6.4 years and in the North East for females at 5.0 years.
Gender inequality in HLE
Life expectancy was higher for females than males in all upper tier local authorities. HLE, however, was more varied, with male HLE being higher than female HLE in just over a quarter of all UTLAs.
Females had a larger geographic inequality in HLE than males, at the UTLA level, with 18.0 years between the highest and lowest HLE for females compared with 15.3 years for males.
The largest difference between males and females, where females can expect to live longer than males in ‘Good’ health, was in Rutland, at 5.0 years. It is the high HLE of females in Rutland rather than the low HLE of males which drives this inequality. The largest difference between males and females where males can expect to live longer in ‘Good’ general health was in Newham, at 4.0 years. Conversely, it is the lower HLE of females in Newham which drives this gender inequality.
There were only three UTLAs where male and female HLE was the same, and therefore no gender inequality experienced. These were Leicestershire (65.2 years), Oldham (60.3 years) and Derbyshire (63.0 years).
Healthy life expectancy and state pension age
For males, only those in the South East had significantly higher HLE than the current male state pension age of 65. When females are assessed against the same state pension age of 65, where it will be by 2018, HLE was significantly higher in the South East, South West and East regions.
At the UTLA level, only in 12 UTLAs did males have a significantly higher HLE than the state pension age and only in 26 UTLAs for females.
These statistics were compiled and analysed by the Health Analysis team in the Public Policy Analysis division. For further details on healthy life expectancy for Upper Tier Local Authorities, see this infographic and statistical bulletin. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d like to hear them! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.