Trends in health expectancy indicators in the older adult population in Belgium between 1997 and 2004

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The objective is to assess if longer life in Belgium is associated with more healthy years through the evaluation of trends (1997-2004) in health expectancy indicators at ages 65 and 80 covering different health domains: self-perceived health, chronic morbidity, disease clusters, and disability. Information was obtained from Belgian Health Interview Surveys. Health expectancies were calculated using the Sullivan method. Among males at age 65, the increase in years expected to live without chronic morbidity, without a disease cluster or without disability exceeded the increase of the life expectancy (LE). The rise in LE in good self-perceived health was equal to the gain in LE. Among women at age 65 and among men and women at age 80, none of the changes in the expected years of life in good health in any health domain were statistically significant. At age 65 among women, the increase in LE was smaller than the increase in years without chronic disease or without disability. The increase in years without disease clusters was less that the LE increase. At age 80 among men, the years without disability increased as the LE, with a shift toward years with moderate limitations. In any other health domains for men (except co-morbidity) and in all domains for women the years in good health either decreased or increased less than the LE. The recent rise in life expectancy in Belgium is, among the youngest old and especially among males, accompanied by an improved health status. At age 80 and particularly among women expansion of unhealthy years prevails.

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