Inequality in disability-free life expectancies among older men and women in six countries with developing economies

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Abstract

Background

It is unclear whether the increase in life expectancy (LE) globally is coupled with a postponement of morbidity and disability. Evidence on trends and determinants of disability-free life expectancies (DFLEs) are available in high-income countries but less in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study examines the levels of and inequalities in LE, disability and DFLE between men and women across different age groups aged 50 years and over in six countries with developing economies.

Methods

This study utilised the cross-sectional data (n=32 724) from the WHO Study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE) in China, Ghana, India, Mexico, the Russian Federation and South Africa in 2007–2010. Disability was measured with the activity of daily living (ADL) instrument. The DFLE was estimated using the Sullivan method based on the standard period life table and ADL-disability proportions.

Results

The disability prevalence ranged from 13% in China to 54% in India. The prevalence of disability was highest and occurred at younger age in both sexes in India. Women were more disadvantaged with higher prevalence of disability across all age groups, and the situation was worst among older women in Mexico and the Russian Federation. Though women had higher LE, their proportion of remaining LE free from disability was lower than men.

Conclusions

There are inequalities in the levels of disability and DFLE among men and women in different age groups among people aged over 50 years in these six countries. Countermeasures to decrease intercountry and gender gaps in DFLE, including improvements in health promotion and healthcare distribution, with a gender equity focus, are needed.

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