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.

Note: 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. The 2009 estimates form the start of a new time trend.

  • The most recent annual estimates for Scotland are for boys born in 2014 to live 77.4 years on average, 60.3 of these in a 'healthy' state. Girls born in 2014 would be expected to live 81.4 years on average, 62.6 of these years being 'healthy'.
  • Underlying trends in LE at birth show a general improvement in Scotland over recent 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.
  • 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 2014. For HLE at birth, the difference between males and females was 3.3 years in 1980, falling to 2.3 years in 2014.
  • There are considerable variations in LE and HLE at birth in Scotland among different geographical and socio-economic groupings. For example, in 2009-13, male LE at birth ranged from 81.4 years in the least deprived quintile to 71.1 years in the most deprived quintile (a difference of 10.3 years). For male HLE at birth, the figures were 71.5 and 53.4 years respectively (a difference of 18.1 years). For females, LE at birth ranged from 84.1 years in the least deprived quintile to 77.1 years in the most deprived quintile (a difference of 7.0 years) while for HLE at birth, the figures were 72.9 and 56.1 years respectively (a difference of 16.7 years).
  • LE is significantly worse (lower) in Scotland than in the UK as a whole, for both males and females. For further details see the OECD website.
  • HLE is significantly worse (lower) in Scotland than in the UK for males, but similar for females. For further details see the Eurostat website.
  • 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.

ScotPHO welcomes feedback from website users on the information included in this update. Please e-mail us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  with any comments on how the data are used and presented and how this could be improved.

Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in December 2015. It included 2014 HLE estimates for Scotland (including deprivation quintiles). 
  • It also included LE/HLE estimates based on self-assessed health from the 2011 Census (i.e. HLE by NHS board, council area, deprivation quintile, deprivation decile and urban rural classification). 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.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out in December 2016.

 

Contacts:

Richard Lawder
Principal Information Analyst
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Tel: 0131 275 6477

Ruth Gordon
Senior Information Analyst
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Tel: 0131 275 6335

This is an Official Statistics Publication for Scotland produced by Information Services Division (ISD) on behalf of ScotPHO. See the ISD About Our Statistics web page for further information on ISD and Official Statistics.

 

User engagement:

ScotPHO and ISD are keen to seek the views of users of health statistics in Scotland in order to improve their quality, value, accessibility and impact. A joint engagement event was arranged in 2014 with ISD, UK Statistics Authority and health statistics users (see the full report (1Mb)).

ScotPHO welcomes feedback on the information included in this update and its presentation; please email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .