Increase in social inequality in health expectancy in Denmark

Scand J Public Health. 2008 Jan;36(1):44-51. doi: 10.1177/1403494807085193.


Aims: Health expectancy represents the average lifetime in various states of health and differs among social groups. The purpose of the study was to determine trends in social inequality in health expectancy since 1994 between groups with high, medium and low educational levels in Denmark.

Methods: The study was based on data from nationwide registers on educational level and mortality during the period 1994-2005 and data on health status derived from the Danish Health Interview Surveys carried out in 1994, 2000 and 2005. Expected lifetime in self-rated good and poor health, lifetime without and with longstanding illness and expected lifetime without and with long-lasting difficulties or restrictions were estimated by Sullivan's method.

Results: Between 1994 and 2005, life expectancy at age 30 years increased by 1.9 years for men and 1.5 years for women with a low educational level. For people with a high educational level, the increase was 2.7 years for men and 2.2 years for women. The difference between people with low and high educational level in expected lifetime in self-rated good health increased by 2.0 and 1.3 years for 30-year-old men and women, respectively. The social gap also increased for other indicators.

Conclusions: During the past 12 years, social inequality in life expectancy and health expectancy has increased in Denmark, but the proportion of the population with a low educational level has decreased.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy* / trends
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health* / trends
  • Self Concept
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires