Trends in health expectancies among the oldest old in Sweden, 1992-2011

Eur J Public Health. 2016 Dec;26(6):1069-1074. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckw066. Epub 2016 May 11.


Background: Information on the extent to which older people's increasing life expectancy is characterized by good or poor health is important for policy and fiscal planning. This study explores trends in health expectancies among the oldest old in Sweden from 1992 to 2011.

Methods: Cross-sectional health expectancy estimates at age 77 were obtained for 1992, 2002, 2004 and 2011 by Sullivan's method. Health expectancy was assessed by severe disability, mild disability and mobility problems. Changes in health expectancies were decomposed into the contributions attributed to changes of mortality rates, and changes in disability and mobility prevalence. Mortality data were obtained from Statistics Sweden and prevalence data from two nationally representative surveys, the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old and the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe.

Results: Years free from severe disability, mild disability and mobility problems increased in both men and women. Decomposition analysis indicates that the increase was mainly driven by the change in health status rather than change in mortality. In relation to total life expectancy, the general patterns suggest that women had a compression of health problems and men an expansion.

Conclusion: Men's life expectancy increased more than women's; however, the increased life expectancy among men was mainly characterized by disability and mobility problems. The results suggest that the gender gap in health expectancy is decreasing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy / trends*
  • Male
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sweden