Healthy life expectancy: key points

Life expectancy (LE) is an estimate of how many years a person might be expected to live, whereas healthy life expectancy (HLE) is an estimate of how many years they might live in a 'healthy' state. HLE is a key summary measure of a population's health.

  • The most recent annual estimates for Scotland are for boys born in 2012 to live 76.9 years on average, 59.4 of these in a 'healthy' state. Girls born in 2012 would be expected to live 80.9 years on average, 62.0 of these years being 'healthy'.
  • Underlying trends in both LE and HLE at birth show a general improvement in Scotland over recent years.
  • There is a major discontinuity in the HLE series between 2008 and 2009 due to a change in methodology to align with the European Union. This results in estimates of HLE at birth from 2009 onwards being over eight years lower for each sex. These new estimates form the start of a new time trend.
  • The gap between LE and HLE (the years expected to be spent in a 'not healthy' state during the average lifetime) has been fairly constant for females between 1980 and 2008, but tended to increase for males.
  • Time trends show that the gap between the sexes, in both LE and HLE at birth, has narrowed over time. For LE at birth, the difference between males and females was 6.4 years in 1980, falling to 4.0 years in 2012. For HLE at birth, the difference between males and females was 3.3 years in 1980, falling to 2.6 years in 2012.
  • There are considerable variations in LE and HLE at birth in Scotland among different geographical and socio-economic groupings. For example, in 2009-10, male LE at birth ranged from 81.0 years in the least deprived quintile to 70.1 years in the most deprived quintile (a difference of 10.9 years). For male HLE at birth, the figures were 68.5 and 50.0 years respectively (a difference of 18.5 years). For females, LE at birth ranged from 84.2 years in the least deprived quintile to 76.8 years in the most deprived quintile (a difference of 7.4 years) while for HLE at birth, the figures were 70.5 and 52.5 years respectively (a difference of 18.0 years).
  • LE is significantly worse (lower) in Scotland than in the UK as a whole, for both males and females. HLE is significantly worse (lower) in Scotland than in the UK for males, but similar for females.
  • Scotland has one of the lowest LEs in Western Europe. International comparisons of HLE are hampered by the lack of consistent health measures. However, on the basis of a related indicator, healthy life years (HLY), it would appear that, in comparison with many European countries, Scotland fares badly for males but compares better for females.

 

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Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in December 2013. It included 2012 HLE estimates for Scotland.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out in Spring 2014 (including deprivation quintiles and deciles).
  • It is anticipated that the HLE estimates based on self-assessed health from the 2011 Census (i.e. HLE by NHS board, Community Health Partnership, deprivation decile and urban rural classification) will be published in Autumn 2014. Please note that, as for the HLE results for Scotland and deprivation quintiles, estimates for these geographies will also be lower due to the methodological change, and there will be a discontinuity in time trends between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses.