Health Expectancy Indicators: What Do They Measure?

Vanessa di Lego , Vienna Institute of Demography

Introduction. Health expectancy indicators aim at capturing the quality dimension of the total life expectancy. However, the underlying approach, definition of health and information source differs considerably among the indicators available. This work aims to (1) review the main concepts and approaches to estimating health expectancies focusing on two widely used health indicators for the European case (HALE and HLY); and (2) to identify underlying differences in results yielded by these two indicators. Methods. Statistical differences between HALE and HLY by sex at ages 50,60 and 70 are tested through pairwise and global Student´s t-tests and z-scores based on the standard deviation. Data is for 29 European countries from the European Health Expectancy Monitoring Unit Information System (EHEMU) and the WHO-GBD study for year 2016. Results. HALE estimates are smoother across European countries than HLY, have a narrower gender gap in morbidity, present higher z-scores compared to the average distribution across Europe, being less sensitive to cross-country variations. Conclusion. HALE estimates indicate a compression of morbidity for both sexes while HLY suggests a compression of morbidity for males and expansion for females, while also being more sensitive to cross-country characteristics. Because HALE measures are weighted by the severity level of diseases, the estimates are more correlated to mortality, while HLY captures more the health dimension, irrespective of mortality. These results imply that one should be cautious when using the different health expectancy indicators available, especially when investigating the relationship between health and mortality.

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 Presented in Session 82. Healthy Life Expectancies II