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Increase in years males and females at birth expected to live with a disability

ONS looks at Disability-Free Life Expectancy in England, 2009-11 and 2006-08

The latest ONS analysis looks at Disability Free Life Expectancy (DFLE) for Upper Tier Local Authorities in England in 2009-11. DFLE is explored by gender, at birth and at age 65, and compared with 2006-08 estimates. The results show an increase in the proportion of life spent with a disability at birth for both males and females. However, at age 65 the reverse was true; men and women could both expect to spend over half a year longer free of disability.

Why is measuring years with and without a disability important?

Disability-Free Life Expectancy (DFLE) estimates the number of years a person might expect to spend free from disability in their lifetime. By disability we mean a persistent illness or condition that limits day to day activities.

This data provides insight on where in the country peoples’ activities are being most affected by their health. This can be used by government to target resources to help reduce disability rates in the worst affected areas by making decisions on health and social care funding. Examples of this include: state pension provisions, state pension age changes and fitness for work assessments.

Increase in years males expected to live with disability

In 2009-11 males could expect to spend almost a fifth (19.0%) of their life with a disability, an increase from 14.6 to 15.0 years compared with 2006-08. For males, life expectancy increased by 1.0 year (77.9 to 78.9 years) whereas DFLE increased by 0.6 years (63.3 to 63.9 years). The increases in the proportion of life spent living with a disability occurred because the improvement in life expectancy exceeded that of DFLE.

Increase in years females expected to live with disability

In 2009-11 females could expect to spend 22.2% of their life with a disability, an increase from 17.5 to 18.4 years compared with 2006-08. For females, life expectancy increased by 0.9 years (82.0 to 82.9 years) whereas DFLE decreased by 0.1 years (64.5 to 64.4 years).

Men and women aged 65 expected to live over half a year longer free of disability

At age 65 both men and women were expected to live longer free of disability in 2009-11 compared with 2006-08. For men the increase was 0.5 years longer free of disability, at 9.9 years in 2006-08 to 10.5 years in 2009-11. For women the increase was 0.6 years, at 10.6 years in 2006-08 to 11.2 years in 2009-11.

The increase in Disability-Free Life Expectancy (DFLE) from 2006-08 to 2009-11 was greater for men and women at age 65 than it was for males and females at birth. The functional health, including conditions such as anxiety and depression, of those aged under 65 may have been more affected by a weakening economy and the associated fall in living standards brought about during the recession, whereas those aged 65 and over were less affected. The recession occurred mostly after the 2006-08 period and during the 2009-11 period.

DFLE increased significantly for males and females in the North East

DFLE for males at birth increased significantly in the North East, East Midlands, Yorkshire and The Humber, South East and London. Between 2006-08 and 2009-11 the increases ranged from 0.7 to 1.9 years in the North East. DFLE for females at birth increased significantly by 1.6 years in the North East, but decreased by 0.8 and 1.4 years for Yorkshire and The Humber and the East Midlands respectively. For both males and females in the North East the proportion of life free of disability also increased by 1.4 years and 1.0 year respectively. All other regions did not change significantly between the time periods for males or females.

Higher proportion of life lived with a disability in most Upper Tier Local Authorities

For males at birth, between 2006-08 and 2009-11, 84 out of 150 Upper Tier Local Authorities had an increase in the proportion of life expected to be spent with a disability. For females it was 109 out of 150 UTLAs. While overall life expectancy at birth has increased for both males and females in almost all UTLAs, the increase in DFLE has not been as big, resulting in the majority of UTLAs experiencing an increase in the proportion of life expected to be spent with a disability. Whether any additional years of life will be spent with a disability or free from disability is a crucial measure for policy.

If you’re interested in these patterns then use our interactive map to explore DFLE data by time, location, gender and at birth/age 65.

Where can I find out more about Disability-Free Life Expectancy?

These statistics were analysed by the Health Analysis team at ONS using data from the Annual Population Survey. If you would like to find out more about the latest Disability-Free Life Expectancy statistics, you can read the release, explore our interactive map, or visit the Health and Social Care theme page. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them, please email us at:

Categories: Health and Social Care, Health of the Population, Disability and Self-reported Health, Health Expectancy, Subnational Health Expectancies
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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