What is the difference between health expectancy and life expectancy?

Measures of health expectancy, such as health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE), combine life expectancy (LE) with a measure of health-related quality of life (HRQL) or disability to create an indicator that evaluates the combined effects of health and mortality, which is expressed in an intuitive measure similar to that of. Life expectancy at birth is defined as how long, on average, a newborn can expect to live if current mortality rates do not change. However, the actual age-specific mortality rate of any particular birth cohort cannot be known in advance. If rates decrease, real life expectancy will be higher than life expectancy calculated using current mortality rates.

Life expectancy at birth is one of the most commonly used health indicators. The increase in life expectancy at birth can be attributed to a number of factors, such as rising living standards, improved lifestyles and better education, as well as greater access to quality health services. This indicator is presented as a total and by gender and is measured in years. Therefore, the life expectancy figures for the period are usually different from the life expectancy figures of the cohort.

Finally, another point to keep in mind is that estimates of life expectancy by periods and cohorts are statistical measures and do not take into account any factors specific to the person, such as lifestyle choices. Not only are life tables fundamental to the production of life expectancy figures (as noted above), but they also offer many other perspectives on the mortality of a population. By contrast, more than 95% of people born in England and Wales today can expect to live more than 50 years. The WHO uses HALE, a standard summary measure of population health both internationally and nationally, to measure a country's effectiveness in reducing the burden of disease.

Estimates of life expectancy during the period do not take into account how mortality rates change over time and instead only reflect the pattern of mortality at any given time. Life tables that are based on age-specific mortality rates observed when tracking and forecasting the death and survival of a group of people as they age). Clearly, the average person's lifespan is not very informative about the expected lifespan of a person leading a particularly unhealthy lifestyle. Since life expectancy at birth is very sensitive to the mortality rate in the first years of life, it is common to report on life expectancy figures at different ages, both according to the period and cohort approaches.

Researchers from the Social Science Research Council suspect that the countries most affected by COVID-19 could see a temporary decrease in overall life expectancy similar to the fall observed after the 1918 pandemic flu. Regionally, people living in North, South and Central America have the longest healthy life expectancy, at 77.6 years, while those living in Africa have the shortest healthy life expectancy, of 72.5 years. An important distinction and clarification is the difference between the life expectancy of the cohort and the period. HALE represents the expected number of years of life remaining in good health starting at a given age (usually at birth or 65), assuming that mortality and morbidity rates remain unchanged.

Not to be confused with life expectancy (the maximum number of years a species can currently live above 120 for humans) or life expectancy (the average lifespan of a population), HALE takes into account years lived in less than full health due to illness or injury. .

Christine Febles
Christine Febles

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