In Denmark life expectancy (LE) has increased since 1995 after a long period of stagnation. Healthy life expectancy (HLE) at age 65 increased more than LE during the period 1987-2005. The aim of the study was to determine the trend in HLE in Denmark at ages 50 and 65 during the period 2004-2011.
The study was based on nationwide register data on mortality and data on health status from the SHARE surveys carried out in 2004/2005, 2006/2007 and 2010/2011. Expected lifetime in various health states was estimated by Sullivan's method. Changes from 2004 to 2011 were decomposed into contributions from changes in mortality and prevalence of activity limitations.
During the period 2004-2011 LE increased by about 1 year at both age 50 and age 65. However, the increase in expected lifetime in self-rated good health, without long-term health problems and without activity limitations was even longer in both genders and it increased by 1.5-4.0 years depending on age, gender and health indicator. Consequently, expected lifetime in an unhealthy state decreased and the proportions of lifetime in a healthy state increased. The disability effect of the health gain was stronger than the mortality effect.
In Denmark HLE increased substantially more than LE during the period 2004-2011 for all three health indicators at both age 50 and age 65, and for both genders. Thus, the improvement in health expectancy continued in Denmark in recent years.