Healthy life expectancy: key points
Whereas life expectancy (LE) is an estimate of how many years a person might be expected to live, 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 2010 to live 76.3 years on average, 59.5 of these in a 'healthy' state. Girls born in 2010 would be expected to live 80.7 years on average, 61.9 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 8 years lower for each sex. These new estimates form the start of a new time trend for future years.
- 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.
- There are considerable variations in LE and HLE at birth in Scotland between males and females and 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 and HLE both tend to be worse (lower) in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.
- 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, disability-free life expectancy, Scotland would appear to compare poorly with many Western European countries, particularly for males.
- The last major update of this section was completed in December 2011. It included 2010 HLE estimates for Scotland, and 2009-10 estimates for deprivation quintiles, which were all lower than estimates up to 2008 due to a change in methodology.
- The next major update is due to be carried out in August 2013 (including 2011 HLE estimates for Scotland). This is delayed from the normal publication date of December 2012, in order that the HLE calculations can be based on population estimates based on the 2011 Census, which are due for publication in June/July 2013.
- 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 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.