National and education-specific trends in life and health expectancies in Denmark 2004-2015
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 1–9 (2023)
Background: Several studies have revealed widening of inequalities in life expectancy, but little is known about the recent
changes in health expectancy nationally and between socioeconomic groups. This study examines dynamics of national and
education-specific life expectancy and health expectancies at age 50 years in Denmark from 2004/2007 to 2015.
Methods: Nationwide register data on education and mortality were linked and combined with Danish health data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, and changes in life expectancy and three health expectancy indicators were estimated by Sullivan’s method.
Results: From 2004 to 2015, national life expectancy at age 50 years increased by 2.4 years for men and 2.1 years for women. Simultaneously, after an initial rapid improvement from 2004 to 2007, the pace of progress in health expectancy decreased. From 2007 to 2015, the difference in life expectancy at age 50 years between men with long and short education increased from 4.3 to 5.0 years. For women, the corresponding increase in the life expectancy gap was less pronounced from 3.5 to 3.8 years. The educational gap in lifetime without long-term illness decreased from 4.6 years to 3.1 years for men and from 6.1 years to 4.6 years for women. On the contrary, the educational gap increased for lifetime without activity limitations and in self-rated good health.
Conclusions: Previously observed improvements in health expectancy in Denmark slowed down despite continuing progress in life expectancy. This worrying change coincides with persistent educational inequalities in life expectancy and health expectancy and is a challenge to sustainable social and health development in the future.
Keywords: Denmark, education, health, life expectancy