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Healthy life expectancy: international comparisons

Life expectancy (LE)

Life Expectancy and Healthy Life Years (also called disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) data for the EU-28 European countries are available on the Eurostat website.

Using the Eurostat data to compare male LE at birth with the member states of the European Union (EU28), for the 3-year period 2012-14, Scotland ranked worse than 18 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

There is a similar picture for female LE at birth, with Scotland ranking worse than 21 of the 28 member states of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Health expectancy

There do not appear to be suitable data to draw comparisons of healthy life expectancy (HLE) between Scotland and countries other than the UK, and therefore other measures of health expectancy must be considered.

The worksheets below include comparison of HLY (DFLE) at birth, using data for the 28 European Union countries from the Eurostat Statistics Database, and data for the UK and its constituent countries from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Caution is needed when comparing the data for HLY as the figures for the United Kingdom differ between the Eurostat and ONS sources, due to the use of different surveys: Eurostat data are based on the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) Survey; ONS data are based on the Annual Population Survey (APS).

The table and chart within the Excel workbook for males (39Kb) show that for males in 2012-14, the UK as a whole ranked lower for HLY than 8 of the 28 member states of the EU: Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain and Sweden. Scotland had the second lowest DFLE at birth of the four countries within the UK. Although it is difficult to compare Scotland directly with the EU countries, it would appear that Scotland would be in the lower half of the ranking for HLY in males.

The table and chart within the Excel workbook for females (38Kb) show that for females in 2012-14, the UK as a whole ranked lower for HLY than 7 of the 28 member states of the EU: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Malta, Spain and Sweden. Scotland had the second lowest DFLE at birth of the four countries within the UK, and although comparisons with the EU countries are again hampered by the use of different surveys, it would appear that Scotland would also be in the lower half of the ranking for HLY in females.

Again, some caution is needed in drawing conclusions, as the data are based on just one 3-year period, and there are differences arising from the use of different surveys in the two sets of UK data. It would appear, however, that for HLY, in comparison with many European countries, Scotland fares badly for males but compares better for females.

Other publications

LE data are included in the Scotland and European Health for All (HfA) Database. This presents data for life expectancy at birth and at ages 1, 15, 45 and 65 years, and allows quick comparisons between Scotland and any/all of the 53 member states in the WHO European Region, including the UK. Time trends are given, with the Scottish data starting in 1981 for LE for males and for females, but only 2004 for all persons. The graphs and tables from the database show that despite the general pattern of an increase in LE over time in Scotland and many other Western European countries, Scotland's LE is one of the lowest.

The Scotland and European Health for All (HfA) Database also includes indicators for disability-adjusted life expectancy (DALE) based on estimates made by the WHO. These are available for the 27 member states of the EU, including the UK, but not Scotland separately.

Page last updated: 01 September 2017

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014