Longer lives and healthy ageing? Sweden in a European comparison

Ailiana Santosa, Umeå University
Nawi Ng, Umeå University
Lars Weinehall, Umeå University
Gunnar Malmberg, Umeå University

Background: Increased in life expectancies in the last few decades have been unprecedented. Longer life expectancy might reflect healthy ageing processes but adding extra years to life does not always mean that the additional years are disability free. Robust, cross-country comparable, evidence explaining whether European populations are living longer without morbidity or functional disability, and which factors are likely to influence ageing processes, is yet to be fully established. Objectives: To examine whether European older people aged 50+, in the last ten years, have experienced an increasing disability-free life expectancy (DFLE), whether the trends of DFLE are converging or diverging across the European population? Are the trends of DFLE gendered? Methods: Cross-national longitudinal data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) was utilized, focusing on people aged 50+ in ten SHARE countries from wave 2 (2006) and wave 5 (2013). Disability was measured with Activity of Daily Living (ADL) instrument. The DFLE was measured using the Sullivan method based on the standard period life table and ADL-disability proportions, in men and women for each country. Results: The disability prevalence varied and increased by age in most of SHARE countries, which Belgium has the highest prevalence and the lowest was Switzerland in both waves. Women were more prevalent to report the disability and had extra years of life with disability compared to men. Mixed trends in DFLE observed across SHARE countries during 2006- 2013, which Sweden and Switzerland reported a substantially higher number of years free of most of the disability over time. The gender gap differences in DFLE varied across countries. Conclusions: Significant DFLE inequalities were evident among European countries, along with existing gender gap differences of LE and DFLE. Therefore, policy actions aiming to maximize DFLE for older population in European are needed.

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 Presented in Session 38. Health, well-being and morbidity