The length of time people can expect to live free from a limiting chronic illness or disability has increased for all countries in the UK, according to a report published today in the Office for National Statistics journal Health Statistics Quarterly.
New figures show that disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) at birth for males in the UK increased from 60 years in 2000–02 to 62 years in 2004–06. For females it increased from 63 years in 2000–02 to 64 years in 2004–06.
DFLE for males in 2004–06 was highest in England, at 63 years, compared with 62 years in Scotland and 60 years in Northern Ireland and Wales. For females, DFLE was 64 years in England, around 63 years in Wales and Scotland, and 61 years in Northern Ireland.
The increases in DFLE between 2000–02 and 2004–06 were generally greater than the increases in life expectancy so the proportion of life spent disability-free has risen. These increases in DFLE represent for males an additional 11 months of life free from a limiting chronic illness or disability more than the increase in life expectancy in England and Wales, 14 months in Northern Ireland and 20 months in Scotland.
For females, gains were three months in England, one month in Northern Ireland and 19 months in Wales. There was no additional gain for females in Scotland.
This pattern contrasts with the trend between 1981 and 1999 when LE was increasing more rapidly than DFLE at birth for both men and women, causing the proportion of life with a chronic limiting illness or disability to increase.
The report also showed that healthy life expectancy (HLE) – defined as years spent in "good" or "fairly good" health – for males in the UK increased from 67 years in 2000–02 to 68 years in 2004–06. For females it increased slightly, from just under 70 years in 2000–02 to just over 70 years in 2004–06.