Inequalities in disability-free and disabling multimorbid life expectancy in Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States

Lam, A. A., Keenan, K., Cézard, G., Kulu, H., Myrskylä, M.
The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 1–41 (2024)
Open Access


Objectives: To better understand variations in multimorbidity severity over time, we estimate disability-free and disabling multimorbid life expectancy (MMLE), comparing Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States. We also assess MMLE inequalities by sex and education.

Methods: Data come from the Costa Rican Study on Longevity and Healthy Aging (2005-2009), the Mexican Health and Aging Study (2012-2018), and the Health and Retirement Study (2004-2018). We apply an incidence-based multistate Markov approach to estimate disability-free and disabling MMLE and stratify models by sex and education to study within-country heterogeneity. Multimorbidity is defined as a count of two or more chronic diseases. Disability is defined using limitations in activities of daily living.

Results: Costa Ricans have the lowest MMLE, followed by Mexicans, then individuals from the US. Individuals from the US spend about twice as long with disability-free multimorbidity compared with individuals from Costa Rica or Mexico. Females generally have longer MMLE than males, with particularly stark differences in disabling MMLE. In the US, higher education was associated with longer disability-free MMLE and shorter disabling MMLE. We identified evidence for cumulative disadvantage in Mexico and the US, where sex differences in MMLE were larger among the lower educated.

Discussion: Substantial sex and educational inequalities in MMLE exist within and between these countries. Estimating disability-free and disabling MMLE reveals another layer of health inequality not captured when examining disability and multimorbidity separately. MMLE is a flexible population health measure that can be used to better understand the aging process across contexts.

Schlagwörter: Costa Rica, Mexico, Vereinigte Staaten, chronic diseases, comparative analysis, disability, inequality, life expectancy
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.