Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) at birth in England was 63.4 years for males and 64.1 years for females.
The highest HLE was in Richmond upon Thames for males at 70.0 years, and Wokingham for females at 71.0 years.
The lowest HLE was in Tower Hamlets for males at 52.5 years, and Manchester for females at 55.5 years.
Hammersmith and Fulham had the largest gender difference in HLE, with females expected to live 5.2 years longer in ‘Good’ general health than males.
For females, HLE is significantly lower than the state pension age of 65, where it will be in 2018, in 68 authorities. For males it is significantly lower in 77 authorities.
Health Expectancies (HEs) divide predicted lifespan into time spent in given states of health. This adds a quality of life dimension to estimates of life expectancy (LE). The Office for National Statistics (ONS) routinely publishes two types of health expectancies. The first is Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE), which estimates lifetime spent in ‘Very good’ or ‘Good’ health based on how individuals perceive their health. The second is Disability-Free Life Expectancy (DFLE), which estimates lifetime free from a limiting persistent illness or disability. This is based upon a self-rated functional assessment of health.
HEs are used as high-level outcomes to contrast the health status of different populations at specific points in time. Changes in population health can be monitored over time, giving context to the impacts of policy changes and interventions, both nationally and locally. HEs are used increasingly in government and the private sector for developing policy and business planning to assess health and social care need, and gauge population level health improvement. They are also used for pension provision planning and state pension age reviews.
This bulletin is the second in the series of estimates of HLE at birth, across English regions and Upper Tier Local Authorities (UTLAs), for males and females. LE figures are presented alongside the HLE figures; these were previously published in the ONS sub-national LE release (ONS, 2013c). The next update of this time series will provide figures for the period 2011-13.Back to table of contents
What are health expectancies?
As life expectancy continues to increase in the UK, 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. HEs help us to address this question by adding a dimension of quality of life to estimates of LE. They are estimates of the average number of years a person would live in a given health state if he/she experienced the specified population’s particular age-specific mortality and health status for that time period throughout the rest of his/her life.
The figures represent a snapshot of the mortality and health status of the entire population of a specified area in each time period. They are not, therefore, the number of years that a person will actually expect to live in the area in a given health state. This is because both mortality and health rates, and the exposure risks and treatment effects affecting them, are open to change in the future, and because of population movement into and out of the area.
Health expectancies are robust indicators of health related well-being and functional status. They are in part estimated through subjective self reports of general health, which can be influenced by an individual’s expectations. These are known to vary across socio-demographic factors such as age, sex, socio-economic position (749 Kb Pdf) (ONS, 2010) and area deprivation (ONS, 2013b).
Self-reported general health and limiting persistent illness are linked (ONS, 2012a, Manor et al., 2001), having some predictive value in subsequent health care need and usage, and risk of death. Research evidence has shown people with poor self-rated health (both general health and limiting persistent illness) die sooner than those who report their health more positively (Mossey and Shapiro, 1982; Idler and Benyamini, 1997; Miilunpalo et al, 1997; DeSalvo et al, 2006; Bopp et al, 2012; Ng et al, 2012).
In terms of morbidity the evidence is more limited. However, studies have shown that self-rated health, measured in terms of general health and limiting illness, has some predictive value in the subsequent use of health and social care services. This is shown in increased physician visits (Miilunpalo et al., 1997), hospital admission and nursing home placement (Weinberger et al., 1986). Studies have also shown that self-rated health correlates well with retirement due to disability or poor health (Pietilainen et al., 2011; Dwyer and Mitchell, 1999) and poor health outcomes (Lee, 2000).
Survey measurements of general health and limiting persistent illness are used globally to identify health inequality between administrative areas, inform unmet care and health service needs and to target and monitor the allocation of health care resources amongst population groups (Marmot, 2010). International organisations and networks such as the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2011), Eurostat (Eurostat, 2013) and the Reves Network on Health Expectancy (Reves) use this information to compare morbidity across countries and to monitor trends over time.
This bulletin focuses solely on HLE. These estimates are, in part, subjective and based upon the following survey question.
- ‘How is your health in general; would you say it was…’ – Very good, Good, Fair, Bad or Very bad?
The responses to this question are dichotomised to define ‘Good’ general health and ‘Not Good’ general health: ‘Good’ general health is the combination of the very good and good responses, and ‘Not Good’ general health is the combination of fair, bad and very bad.
HLE is included in both of the two overarching indicators for the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF). The first indicator is increased HLE, taking account of the quality as well as the length of life. The second is to reduce differences in LE and HLE between communities, through greater improvements in more disadvantaged communities. The vision for the indicators is “to improve and protect the nation’s health and wellbeing, and improve the health of the poorest fastest” (page 9, DH, 2012).
The estimates of HLE at birth for England and for UTLAs are calculated using self-reports of general health status collected in the Annual Population Survey (APS). They rely on a method developed by ONS to derive general health state prevalence for persons under 16 years of age (ONS, 2013a) (see methods section). The England estimate in this bulletin is not comparable with the national health expectancy for the UK and Constituent Countries time series (ONS, 2012a). This is because the latter output uses a different data source to calculate general health prevalence, namely the General Household Survey (GHS), and the former imputes proxy responses of general health for those aged under 16. For UTLAs wanting to benchmark themselves against a national estimate of HLE, they should use the England estimate in this bulletin and future updates of this series. ONS will cross-validate these sub-national estimates using 2011 Census data, with findings due to be published in late 2014.
Changes in health expectancies over time are assessed by comparing non-overlapping time periods. Therefore estimates for 2010-12 should not be compared with estimates for 2009-11, as they will contain some of the same survey respondents.
Results are presented with 95% confidence intervals, to aid interpretation. Confidence intervals in this bulletin indicate the uncertainty surrounding LE and HLE estimates and enable more meaningful comparisons between authorities. When comparing the estimates of two areas, non-overlapping confidence intervals are indicative of statistical significance but to confirm this, a test of significance should be carried out. When the statistical significance is noted in the text, it is based on a statistical test of the difference (Jagger et al, 2007). All differences noted in the text have been calculated to more than one decimal place.
Quality information about ONS health expectancies (185.7 Kb Pdf) is available on the ONS website.Back to table of contents
Healthy life expectancy (HLE) at birth in England was 63.4 years for males and 64.1 years for females. Across regions, a clear North-South divide was observed with regions in the South East, South West and East of England all having a significantly higher HLE than the England average. The West Midlands, North West, North East, and Yorkshire and The Humber all had significantly lower HLE than the England estimate (Table 1).
For both males and females, HLE was highest in the South East region (65.8 and 67.1 years respectively) and lowest in the North East region (59.5 and 60.1 years respectively). Therefore the inequality in HLE between regions was 6.4 years for males and 7.0 years for females. The inequality in LE between the North East and South East was much smaller than the inequality in HLE, at 2.5 years for males and 2.2 years for females.
HLE for males in the East Midlands, West Midlands, London, Yorkshire and the Humber, North East and North West was significantly below the male state pension age of 65. If we assess females against the same state pension age of 65, where it will be by 2018, the same is true.
The South East, South West and the East of England had a significantly higher HLE, compared with all other English regions for both males and females (Table 1). The North East was unique in that it had significantly lower HLE than all other regions for both males and females, including the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber. This suggests the health profile of the population of the North East remains distinct from other parts of England.
The inequality between the North and South can also be seen when looking at the proportion of LE spent in a favourable health state. Males in the South East are expected to live 82.0% of their life in ‘Good’ general health compared with 76.4% for men in the North East region. The same inequality was present among females, where the difference between the two regions was 6.4 percentage points: 80.0% of life expectancy spent in ‘Good’ general health in the South East, compared with 73.6% in the North East. For each gender, those living in the southern regions not only enjoy longer life expectancies but also greater proportions of their longer lives in a favourable health state compared with their counterparts living in the North.
Table 1: Life Expectancy (LE) and Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) for males and females at birth by region, 2010-12
|LE||HLE||Lower 95% confidence interval||Upper 95% confidence interval||Proportion of life spent in 'Good' health (%)|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||78.3||61.2||60.7||61.7||78.1|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||82.2||62.0||61.5||62.6||75.5|
|Source: Office for National Statistics|
|1. Excludes residents of communal establishments except NHS housing and students in halls of residence where inclusion takes place at their parents' address.|
|2. Regions are presented by gender sorted by HLE.|
Download this table Table 1: Life Expectancy (LE) and Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) for males and females at birth by region, 2010-12.xls (58.4 kB)
In every UTLA, LE was longer for females than for males. The smallest gender inequality in LE was in Southend-on-Sea and Cheshire East, with females expected to live 2.9 years longer than males. The largest gender inequality in LE was in Blackpool, where females expect to live 6.0 years longer than males.
The gender differences in HLE were less regular in pattern than for LE: while in every UTLA LE for females exceeded that for males, HLE was higher for males in almost a quarter of authorities.
The largest difference in HLE between males and females was seen in Hammersmith and Fulham, where females can expect to live 5.2 years longer in a state of ‘Good’ general health than males. This was followed by Islington at 4.9 years. In Hammersmith and Fulham, it is the low HLE of males rather than the high HLE of females which drives this inequality.
The largest difference between males and females, where males have higher HLE, was in Waltham Forest where males can expect to live an additional 4.8 years in ‘Good’ health compared to females. Here, it is the lower HLE for females in Waltham Forest which drives this gender inequality.
Interestingly, although within gender inequality is greater for HLE (17.5 years for males and 15.4 years for females) than LE (8.1 years for males and 6.4 years for females); between gender inequality is greater for LE, at 6.0 years in Blackpool compared with 5.2 years for HLE in Hammersmith and Fulham.Back to table of contents
The importance of HLE as a summary measure of population health is reflected in its inclusion in the two high-level outcomes in the Public Health Outcomes Framework.
The analysis provided in this bulletin adds a quality of life component to LE estimates. Results for UTLAs, regions and England are produced to allow comparisons across administrative areas at each time point. Producing the three levels of geography allows local areas to compare themselves to the England average, the regional average, with other local areas, and to assess their own progress over time.
This bulletin has shown a clear and persistent North-South divide in HLE, consistent with earlier findings in DFLE (ONS, 2014) at UTLA level. For both males and females, the longest durations of healthy life were found in prosperous parts of London and the South East region. The shortest durations remained in deprived parts of the North East, North West and London.
In addition, notable gender differences in LE and HLE were present although the pattern was less uniform in HLE. Female LE was higher than male LE across all the UTLAs analysed. However, gender differences in estimates of HLE were more varied, with males having a higher HLE than females in just less than a quarter of UTLAs.
Inequality in HLE across UTLAs was wider than it was for LE for both genders. For both males and females, the geographic inequality was more than twice as wide for HLE (17.5 years and 15.4 years respectively) than for LE (8.1 years and 6.4 years respectively).
It is important to track HLE as LE increases, to see whether these years of additional life are spent in states of good health or in poor health and dependency. Relevant to this are recent changes to state pension age in the UK, where people are expected to extend their working lives to take account of improvements in LE. The figures presented in this bulletin suggest the impact of increasing the state pension age differs greatly between populations in different areas of the country. Of the 150 UTLAs analysed, when assessed with 95% confidence intervals, males on average in 77 authorities had a significantly lower HLE than the state pension age (assessed at 65 for both genders, where it will be by 2018) while for females this was true in 68 authorities. In fact there were only 17 local authorities for men and 27 for females where HLE was significantly higher than the state pension age. Such information has relevance for healthy ageing and health care need, need for benefits during working age, and future pensions provision.
A consistent pattern of longer lives and smaller proportions of life spent in less favourable health states are associated with decreasing exposure to deprivation (ONS 2010, ONS 2013b). The English Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010 shows that the northern regions have higher concentrations of Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in the most deprived decile (DCLG, 2011). This is consistent with the findings in this bulletin, which show those in the northern regions and northern authorities predominantly had lower LE and HLE than those in the South. The importance health agencies place on deprivation as a determinant of health is shown by its high prominence in health strategy documents, such as the Public Health Outcomes Framework. Tackling exposure to deprivation is therefore a key goal in reducing the health divide between the least and most advantaged areas, while continuing to bring about health improvement for all.Back to table of contents
Calculating healthy life expectancy
The data used in calculating the prevalence of good general health was obtained from the Annual Population Survey (APS). It was aggregated over a three-year period to achieve sufficiently large sample sizes to enable meaningful statistical comparison.
However, as the size of each UTLA varies, the number of respondents sampled in some UTLAs was a lot smaller than for others. For these authorities with relatively small sample sizes, such as the London borough of Tower Hamlets, the estimates are more susceptible to large fluctuations because of the impact of random variation.
The prevalence of ‘Good’ general health among males and females resident in private households in England was compared across regions and UTLAs, which include unitary authorities, London boroughs and metropolitan districts in England, but excludes the City of London and the Isles of Scilly. HLE was then calculated using the Sullivan method, which combines prevalence data with mortality and mid-year population estimates (MYPE) over the same period and geographical coverage to calculate estimates of LE and HLE at birth by sex (ONS Life Table Template (192.5 Kb Excel sheet), Jagger, 1999). The MYPEs used to estimate HLE for this bulletin are the revised backdated estimates based on the 2011 census (ONS 2013d).
The APS provides prevalence information for those aged 16 years and over. We are able to estimate HLE at birth by directly imputing health prevalence at age 16 -19 for those under 16 (ONS, 2013a).
The age band structure used for calculating HLE is not that outlined in the update to methodology to calculate health expectancies (ONS, 2013a) but the traditional age band structure of <1, 1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19……85+.
Results are presented with 95% confidence intervals in reference tables to help interpretation. Confidence intervals in this bulletin indicate the uncertainty surrounding HLE estimates and allow more meaningful comparisons between areas. When comparing the estimates of two areas, non-overlapping confidence intervals are indicative of statistical significance but to confirm this, a test of significance should be carried out. When the statistical significance is noted in the text, this is based on a statistical test of the differences (Jagger et al., 2007). All differences noted in this text have been calculated to more than one decimal place.Back to table of contents
HLE at a given age for a specific period and population, such as males and females at birth residing in private households in UTLAs in 2010-12, is an estimate of the average number of years a person would live in a state of ‘Good’ general health if he/she experienced the specified population’s age-specific mortality and health status 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 residing in that area, rather than only 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. This is because both the death rates and health status rates of the specified population are likely to change in the future, because of changes to health risk determinants such as smoking levels in the population, and 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 the differences in the age structures of populations. Results are comparable by age, sex and between specified populations.Back to table of contents
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