Objective: To estimate health expectancy in Denmark and evaluate changes during the period 1987-1994.
Design: Life-table figures from vital statistics combined with prevalence data of population health status derived from the Danish Health Interview Surveys carried out in 1987, 1991, and 1994.
Setting and subjects: The Danish population aged 16 years and over.
Main outcome measures: Health expectancy calculated by Sullivan's method combining mortality and morbidity into a single indicator. This indicator estimates the average lifetime in good health. Relating health expectancy to life expectancy gives a measure of the proportion of lifetime in good health.
Results: Although life expectancy has remained stable since the beginning of the 1980s health expectancy has changed slightly over the period 1987-1994, with a positive trend for men but a negative one for women.
Conclusion: The results underline the concern about the health of Danish women expressed in recent years. Health expectancy could be increased by successful prevention of musculo-skeletal diseases, which account for the highest proportion of lifetime with long-standing illness.