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Statistical bulletin: Disability-free life expectancy, sub-national estimates for England, 2007–09

Released: 13 June 2012 Download PDF

Key findings

  • There was a clear north–south divide in estimates of life expectancy (LE) and disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) at age 16 for both men and women across England.
  • In general, those lower tier local authority districts (LADs) situated in the south of England had longer LE and DFLE than in the north.
  • Across the regions, DFLE was significantly lower in the North East; while people living in the South East had the highest LE and DFLE.
  • For both men and women at age 16, half of the ten LADs with the poorest DFLE estimates were located in the North West.
  • Conversely, the majority of the 10 LADs with the best DFLE estimates were located in the South East.
  • LE was higher for women than for men in all LADs; however, DFLE was higher for men than women in approximately one-third of LADs; a difference of 5.5 years in favour of men existing in East Cambridgeshire.

Summary

DFLE adds a dimension of quality of life to LE estimates, providing users with a summary measure of population health. DFLE can be used as a high level outcome to monitor health improvement, effects of policy change at national and local level, and to support service planning across sectors, such as health, benefits and pensions.


This bulletin updates a previous article and presents the second in a series of annual estimates of LE and DFLE at age 16 across English regions and LADs, for men and women during the period 2007-09. Estimates for men and women at age 65 are also provided in the accompanying dataset Sub-national Disability-free life expectancy : England, 2007–2009 (249.5 Kb Excel sheet)

Background

Health expectancies (HEs) provide estimates of the length of life spent in favourable and unfavourable health states, thereby adding a quality dimension to LE. DFLE is calculated using self-reports of activity limiting illness from survey data, and is therefore a measure of functional health status, which has relevance for fitness for work and independent living. DFLE divides expected years of life into those spent living with and without a limiting long-standing illness or disability (LLSI). It is important to track the rate of improvement in DFLE against the improvement in LE as this has implications for the duration of time that, on average, people will live in a favourable state of functional health.


Health inequalities have enormous social and economic costs. The recent Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England post-2010 (Marmot, 2010) clearly highlights these and illustrates the likely benefits that would be realised if everyone experienced the same health as those in the most advantaged areas. The Review makes a compelling case for monitoring these inequalities more frequently at sub-national geographical scales to determine whether these inequalities, and their associated social and economic costs, are narrowing, persisting or widening over time. This information is useful to enable monitoring of policies designed to achieve health improvement among the worst performing areas on measures of health outcome fastest, thereby reducing the scale of the health gap between areas with advantaged and disadvantaged populations.

A substantial body of literature demonstrates significant geographical differences in HEs, and that these are strongly associated with the relative level of deprivation experienced by the area (Bajekal et al., 2002; Bissett, 2002; Bajekal, 2005; ONS, 2007; Rasulo et al., 2007; Olatunde et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2010a,Smith et al 2010b; White and Edgar, 2010; ONS, 2012).


In a recent article: Disability-free life expectancy: comparison of sources and small area estimates in England, 2006-08 we explored the potential of the ONS Annual Population Survey (APS) to produce estimates of DFLE for men and women; firstly at the national level and then by increasingly detailed sub-national levels in England. In this bulletin we update these analyses, presenting figures for men and women at age 16 for the period 2007-09. Note: assessment of change between 2006-08 and 2007-09 cannot be made as these periods contain overlapping years of both disability and mortality data. Valid comparisons of change over time both within and between areas can only be made using distinct (non-overlapping) periods of data.

The dataset that accompanies this release  Sub-national Disability-free life expectancy : England, 2007–2009 (249.5 Kb Excel sheet) also includes estimates for men and women at age 65. In addition, the findings of this release will be further illustrated using Interactive maps of LE and DFLE at age 16 and 65 for men and women across lower tier LADs in England for the periods 2006-08 and 2007-09


ONS has produced a range of health expectancy statistics and this bulletin represents the second annual release reporting analyses of inequalities in DFLE by administrative geographical area in England in the 21st century. The statistics presented in this bulletin are currently undergoing evaluation for National Statistics accreditation. Further information about this process can be found at Guidance-about-assessment

For further information about ONS sub-national health expectancies, please visit our website at Subnational Health Expectancies.

Policy context

DFLE is an important metric in the assessment of health and social care needs, and the monitoring of policies designed to reduce health inequalities. Since estimates of DFLE give an indication of the likely proportion of the working age population fit for work at a given age, they also have relevance for the analysis of the viability of increases to the state pension age. As such, estimates of DFLE are used to support policy development in the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DFLE at age 65, in the form of healthy life years, is also a European Community Health Indicator (ECHI).

Key comparisons

The data in this bulletin and comparative figures for men and women at age 65 are available in the associated dataset Sub-national Disability-free life expectancy : England, 2007–2009 (249.5 Kb Excel sheet)

English regions

With the exception of London, estimates of LE and DFLE were higher in the southern regions and lower in the northern regions of England, see table 1.       
LE at age 16 was lowest in the North West where men could expect to live a further 61.2 years and women 65.4 years; the figures for the North East were similar at 61.3 years and 65.4 years respectively. By contrast LE at age 16 was more than two years higher in the South East (the region with the highest LE) at 63.9 years for men and 67.7 years for women.
The contrast in DFLE between the north and south of the country was more pronounced than LE. There was a clear divide between the north/midlands and the south of England. For men, DFLE was significantly lower in the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands than in the East of England, London, South East and South West. For women, the picture was similar with the exception of London where DFLE was not significantly lower than in the West Midlands.
Overall, DFLE was significantly lower in the North East than in any other region, at 45.3 years for men and 45.9 years for women. By contrast, DFLE was highest in the South East at 51.5 years and 52.3 years respectively. This suggests that, on average, men and women in the North East will experience activity limiting illness or disability before the official state pension age, while those in the South East will achieve the state pension age before onset of activity limiting illness or disability.     


In terms of the proportion of life spent free from a limiting illness or disability from age 16, men in the South East can expect to spend around 80 per cent of their remaining lives disability-free compared with only 74 per cent in the North East. For women, these figures were around 77 per cent in the South East compared with approximately 70 per cent in the North East. Thus men and women in the South East can expect to spend 6 to 7 percentage points more of their already longer lives in a better functional health state than their counterparts in the North East, benefiting both in absolute and relative terms.
Comparing figures between men and women, it is notable that DFLE was significantly lower for men across all regions with the exception of the North East.

Table 1. Life expectancy (LE) and Disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) for men and women at age 16(1); English regions, 2007-09

Years, percentage
English region LE DFLE Lower 95 per cent confidence interval Upper 95 per cent confidence interval Percentage of life spent disability-free
Men          
North East 61.3 45.3 44.8 45.8 73.9
North West 61.2 47.0 46.7 47.3 76.8
Yorkshire and The Humber 62.1 46.9 46.5 47.3 75.6
East Midlands 62.7 48.3 47.9 48.8 77.0
West Midlands 62.3 48.4 48.0 48.8 77.7
East of England 63.8 50.8 50.3 51.2 79.5
London 63.2 49.3 48.9 49.7 78.1
South East 63.9 51.5 51.1 51.8 80.5
South West 63.7 50.9 50.5 51.3 80.0
Women          
North East 65.4 45.9 45.4 46.4 70.3
North West 65.4 47.8 47.4 48.1 73.1
Yorkshire and The Humber 66.0 48.1 47.7 48.6 72.9
East Midlands 66.6 49.3 48.8 49.8 74.0
West Midlands 66.5 49.6 49.2 50.1 74.6
East of England 67.4 51.7 51.3 52.1 76.6
London 67.6 50.4 50.0 50.9 74.6
South East 67.7 52.3 51.9 52.7 77.2
South West 67.7 52.0 51.5 52.4 76.7

Table notes:

  1. Excludes residents of communal establishments except NHS housing and students in halls of residence where inclusion takes place at their parents address

Download table

Local authority districts

Within each region, the performance of LADs on measures of LE and DFLE varied. However, as at the regional level, a clear north–south divide in this distribution was present, with LADs in the south generally performing better than those in the north.
For men and women, the majority of the LADs with the lowest estimates of DFLE were in the north of the country, with five of the bottom 10 in the North West region. By contrast, the ten LADs with the highest estimates of DFLE for men were all in the south and east of the country, (table 2). For women the pattern across regions was less regular; the majority of the LADs with the ten highest estimates of DFLE, were situated in the South East and South West, but LADs from the East Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber were also represented, see table 3.  
For men, LE at age 16 was lowest in Blackpool at 58.3 years. At the other end of the scale LE was ten years higher in Kensington and Chelsea at 69.0 years. For women, LE was lowest in Halton at 63.7 years and almost ten years higher in Kensington and Chelsea at 73.2 years. 
Compared with LE, the gap in DFLE at age 16 between the best and worst performing LADs was much greater; 17.4 years for men and 18.2 years for women.
For men, DFLE was lowest in Newham at 40.2 years, suggesting only two-thirds of remaining life will be spent disability-free on average. Conversely, men living in Chiltern could expect a further 57.7 years, (around 88 per cent of remaining life) spent disability-free,

Table 2. Life expectancy (LE) and Disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) for men at age 16(1); bottom and top ten local authority districts (LADs) by DFLE, 2007-09

Years, percentages
LAD English region LE DFLE Lower 95 per cent confidence interval Upper 95 per cent confidence interval Percentage of life spent disability-free
Bottom ten          
Newham London 60.7 40.2 38.2 42.3 66.2
North West Leicestershire East Midlands 62.8 41.0 37.8 44.2 65.3
Tameside North West 60.2 42.3 40.7 43.8 70.2
Burnley North West 60.0 42.5 38.6 46.4 70.8
Hartlepool UA North East 60.0 42.5 40.9 44.1 70.8
Barnsley Yorkshire and the Humber 60.8 42.5 41.0 44.1 69.9
Manchester North West 58.9 42.7 41.2 44.1 72.5
Knowsley North West 60.3 42.7 41.1 44.2 70.8
Sunderland North East 60.6 42.8 41.3 44.2 70.6
Hyndburn North West 59.8 42.9 39.5 46.3 71.7
England average 62.8 49.1 49.0 49.2 78.2
Top ten            
South Oxfordshire South East 64.3 55.8 53.3 58.2 86.7
Uttlesford East of England 64.8 55.9 53.5 58.3 86.3
Reigate and Banstead South East 64.5 56.0 53.4 58.5 86.8
East Devon South West 65.1 56.2 53.9 58.6 86.3
Vale of White Horse South East 65.3 56.4 53.9 59.0 86.4
Kensington and Chelsea London 69.0 56.8 53.7 59.8 82.2
Mole Valley South East 64.8 56.9 54.0 59.9 87.9
Stroud South West 63.7 56.9 54.9 58.9 89.4
Surrey Heath South East 64.8 57.0 53.9 60.2 88.0
Chiltern South East 65.2 57.7 54.9 60.4 88.5
Range (Chiltern/Newham) 4.5 17.4 .. .. ..

Table notes:

  1. Excludes residents of communal establishments except NHS housing and students in halls of residence where inclusion takes place at their parents address 

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For women, DFLE was lowest in Burnley at 41.3 years, representing around 64 per cent of remaining life disability-free, and highest in Richmondshire at 59.5 years, (around 88 per cent of remaining life spent disability-free)

Table 3. Life expectancy (LE) and Disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) for women at age 16(1); bottom and top ten local authority districts (LADs) by DFLE, 2007-09

Years, Percentages
LAD English region LE DFLE Lower 95 per cent confidence interval Upper 95 per cent confidence interval Percentage of life spent disability-free
Bottom ten            
Burnley North West 64.1 41.3 37.3 45.3 64.4
South Derbyshire East Midlands 66.2 41.3 37.7 45.0 62.4
Knowsley North West 64.5 42.3 40.7 43.9 65.7
North West Leicestershire East Midlands 66.6 42.5 38.8 46.2 63.8
Tameside North West 64.2 42.9 41.3 44.4 66.7
Newham London 65.2 42.9 40.4 45.4 65.8
County Durham  North East 65.2 43.1 41.7 44.5 66.2
Manchester North West 63.8 43.8 42.2 45.3 68.6
Liverpool North West 63.7 43.9 42.5 45.4 68.9
Derby  East Midlands 66.3 44.0 42.3 45.7 66.4
             
England average 66.8 50.1 50.0 50.2 75.0
Top ten            
North Dorset South West 69.0 57.1 54.1 60.1 82.7
Epsom and Ewell South East 69.8 57.4 53.3 61.4 82.2
Tandridge South East 67.8 57.5 54.8 60.1 84.7
South Northamptonshire East Midlands 68.3 57.8 54.4 61.1 84.6
Harborough East Midlands 68.5 58.0 54.8 61.1 84.7
Chiltern South East 69.7 58.2 55.2 61.3 83.6
Surrey Heath South East 68.2 58.3 54.8 61.8 85.5
West Devon South West 68.6 58.4 54.8 61.9 85.1
East Devon South West 68.3 58.6 56.3 61.0 85.8
Richmondshire Yorkshire and the Humber 67.4 59.5 56.4 62.5 88.2
Range (Richmondshire/Burnley) 3.3 18.2 .. .. ..

Table notes:

  1. Excludes residents of communal establishments except NHS housing and students in halls of residence where inclusion takes place at their parents address 

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In figures 1 and 2, the contrast between the north and south of the country is clearly evident for both sexes. LADs across the country were ranked according to estimated DFLE and divided into fifths. The darkest shade represents the bottom 20 per cent of areas (less than 46.4 years for men and less than 47.5 years for women) and the lightest shade represents the top 20 per cent of areas (52.7 years or more for men and 53.8 years or more for women). Interactive versions of these maps are also available online

Figure 1. Disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) for men aged 16(1); by local authority district (2,3) in England, 2007-09

(DFLE) for men aged 161; by local authority district2,3,4 in England, 2007-09

 

Figure 2. Disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) for women aged 16(1); by local authority district(2,3) in England, 2007-09

(DFLE) for women aged 161; by local authority district2,3 in England, 2007-09

Women can expect to live longer than men in all LADs. In the majority of areas, women could also expect to live for longer without a LLSI or disability. The greatest differences in DFLE between men and women were in Chichester and Gravesham. In Chichester, women could expect 7.3 years more life free from a LLSI than men. This means that women could expect on average approximately 12.5 years with a LLSI, for men this figure was 15 years. Looking at the relative rank of DFLE across LADs, women in Chichester had a rank of 27 out of 324 compared to a male rank of 205, see table 4. For Gravesham the gender differential was also 7.3 years with women spending around 15 years with a LLSI or disability compared to men who could expect to spend around 18 years with a LLSI or disability. However, the female DFLE rank in Gravesham was only 120, with the size of the gender differential largely explained the low rank on this measure among males who were ranked at 299 out of 324.

 
In approximately one-third (105) LADs, DFLE for men was higher than for women, the LAD with the largest DFLE gender difference in favour of men was East Cambridgeshire where men could expect to spend 5.5 years longer than women free from a LLSI or disability. In this area, women could expect to spend on average approximately 20 years with an LLSI or disability compared with only 11 years for men. Interestingly in this LAD the female DFLE rank was 228 out of 324. For men, the equivalent rank was 33. This gender difference is therefore driven by high ranking among males on the DFLE measure.

Table 4. Difference, in years, and relative rank of DFLE between men and women at age 16(1) in the LADs with the greatest gender differences, 2007-09

England years, relative rank
LAD English Region DFLE difference (Women - Men) Male DFLE rank (value) Female DFLE rank (value)
Chichester South East 7.3 205 (48.3) 27 (55.6)
Gravesham South East 7.3 299 (44.6) 120 (51.8)
East Cambridgeshire East of England -5.5 33 (54.1) 228 (48.6)

Table notes:

  1. Excludes residents of communal establishments except NHS housing and students in halls of residence where inclusion takes place at their parents address 

Download table

In conclusion, estimates of LE and, more prominently, DFLE show a clear north–south divide. In particular, estimates of LE and DFLE are higher, by region and by LAD, in the South West, South East and East of England than in the North East, North West, Yorkshire and The Humber and the East and West Midlands.
Previous research has demonstrated a clear relationship between health and area based deprivation, however defined. Recently ONS showed that LE and DFLE are substantially lower in the most deprived neighbourhoods and that for females, in particular, there is a trend towards increased inequality between the least and most deprived areas over time (ONS, 2012). These estimates support the scale of inequality found previously by administrative geography (Smith et al., 2010b, ONS, 2006) and cohere well with estimates released previously comparing areas by level of area deprivation. The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2010 (Communities and Local Government), classifies areas based on different domains of deprivation including income, employment, health, crime, education, barriers to housing and living environment. The patterns of deprivation across England according to IMD 2010 are consistent with the findings of this bulletin in that those LADs situated in the north of England, and in London, which contain some of the most disadvantaged populations on this index also have the lowest estimates of LE and DFLE. However, estimates by geographical area are subject to internal and international migration and economic cycle effects, which can compound the scale of inequality as healthier populations are able and willing to move area for economic and social reasons, thereby changing the socioeconomic composition of areas through selection. It is not possible in this bulletin to quantify the likely impact of migration on estimates of DFLE.   

While both life expectancy and DFLE are improving over time for all areas, a sizeable gap persists, suggesting scope for considerable improvement in DFLE among the worst performing LADs through concerted local action across the domains identified in the Department of Health’s Public Health Outcomes Framework (Department of Health, 2012).

Methods

Calculating Disability-free life expectancy


The data used in calculating the prevalence of self-reported limiting long-standing illness or disability was obtained from the Annual Population Survey (APS) and aggregated over a three year period (2007–09) to achieve sufficiently large sample sizes to enable meaningful statistical comparison. The prevalence of limiting long-standing illness or disability among males and females resident in private households in England was compared across regions and lower tier LADs which include Unitary Authorities, London boroughs, metropolitan districts and non-metropolitan districts in England, but excludes the City of London and Isles of Scilly. DFLE was then calculated using the Sullivan method which combines prevalence data with mortality and mid-year population estimates over the same period and geographical scales to calculate estimates of LE and DFLE at age 16 and at age 65 by sex (Jagger, 1996). Estimates for males and females at birth cannot be calculated from the APS as survey questions are only asked of those aged 16 years and older.

Results on the Office for National Statistics website

The results in this bulletin, including equivalent results for 2006-08 can be found on the ONS website at: Subnational Health Expectancies

Interpretation of DFLE

DFLE at a given age for a specific period and population, such as men and women at age 16, residing in private households in LADs in 2007-09, is an estimate of the average number of years a person would live without a limiting long-standing illness or disability if he/she experienced the specified population’s age-specific mortality and LLSI or disability rates for that time period throughout the rest of his/her life.
The figures reflect the mortality and health status of a population in a given time period rather than those born in an area. It is not therefore the number of years that a person will actually expect to live in the various health states, both because the death rates and health status rates of the specified population are likely to change in the future and because some of those in the specified population may live elsewhere for part of their lives.
Health expectancies are indicators of health status that take into account differences in the age structures of populations. Results are comparable by age, sex and between specified populations.

 

References

Bajekal M, Purdon S, Woodgate-Jones G and Davies S (2002) ‘Healthy life expectancy at Health Authority level: comparing estimates from the General Household Survey and the Health Survey for England.’ Health Statistics Quarterly 16 pp 25–37.


Bajekal M (2005) ‘Healthy life expectancy by area deprivation: magnitude and trends in England, 1994–1999.’ Health Statistics Quarterly 25 pp 18–27.


Bissett B (2002) ‘Healthy life expectancy in England at subnational level 1992-1998.’ Health Statistics Quarterly 14 pp 21–29.


Department of Health (2012). ‘Improving Outcomes and Supporting Policy: A Public Health Outcomes Framework for England 2013-16’. Crown Copyright 2012


Jagger C (1996) ‘Health Expectancy Calculation by the Sullivan Method: A Practical Guide’, NUPRI Research Paper Series No 68, Toyko.


Marmot M (2010) ‘Fair Society, Healthy Lives; The Marmot Review. Strategic review of Health Inequalities in England post–2010’. The Marmot Review


Office for National Statistics (2007) ‘Health expectancies for local authorities in England and Wales, 2001’ Health Statistics Quarterly 36 pp 87–96.


Office for National Statistics (2012) ‘Inequality in Disability-free life expectancy by area deprivation, 2002-05 and 2006-09’


Olatunde O, White C and Smith MP (2010) ‘Life expectancy and disability–free life expectancy estimates for Middle Super Output Areas; England, 1999–2003. Health Statistics Quarterly 47 pp 33–65.


Rasulo D, Bajekal M and Yar M (2007) ‘In equalities in health expectancies in England and Wales – Small area analyses from the 2001 Census’ Health Statistics Quarterly 34 pp 35-45.

 
Smith MP, Olatunde O and White C (2010a) ‘Monitoring inequalities in health expectancies in England – small area analyses from the Census 2001 and General Household Survey 2001–05’ Health Statistics Quarterly 46 pp 53–70.

Smith MP, Olatunde O and White C (2010b) ‘Inequalities in disability free life expectancy by area deprivation: England, 2001–04 and 2005–08’ Health Statistics Quarterly 48 pp 36–57.

 
White C and Edgar G (2010) ‘Inequalities in healthy life expectancy by social class and area type: England, 2001–03’ Health Statistics Quarterly 45 pp 28–56.

 

Background notes

  1. Enquiries relating to these statistics should be made to:
    Disability and Health Measurement team
    Health and Life Events Division
    Office for National Statistics
    Cardiff Road
    Newport
    Wales
    NP10 8XG
    Tel: +44 (0) 1633 455925
    E-mail: hle@ons.gsi.gov.uk

  2. We would welcome feedback on the content, format and relevance of this release. The Health and Life Events user engagement strategy is available to download from the ONS website. Please send feedback to the postal or email address above.
    Follow ONS on Twitter and Facebook.
    Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office.

  3. Summary video podcasts explaining national and sub national health expectancies, can be found on the ONS YouTube channel

     

  4. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Mike Smith +44 (0)1633 455925 ONS michael.p.smith@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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