Journal Article

Health expectancy in the Netherlands 1983–1990

Harry P.A. van de Water, Hendriek C. Boshuizen and Rom J.M. Perenboom

in The European Journal of Public Health

Published on behalf of European Journal of Public Health

Volume 6, issue 1, pages 21-28
Published in print March 1996 | ISSN: 1101-1262
e-ISSN: 1464-360X | DOI:
Health expectancy in the Netherlands 1983–1990

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Economics of Health
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine


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Health expectancy is a relatively new indicator for population health, taking account of both mortality and morbidity and/or disability. This integral measure, introduced by Sullivan in the 1970s, is based on the simple idea of subtracting the number of years that may be expected to be spent in poor health from life expectancy. This article presents results of calculations from the Netherlands based on 2 approaches: firstly, disability-free life expectancy and, secondly, healthy life expectancy. In the latter, health is based on a health interview question about self-perceived health. Although the life expectancy at birth of females exceeds that of males by rather more than 6 years, this lead is almost entirely cancelled out by the greater number of years which females spend in poor health. The trend study 1983–1990 revealed some indication of a rise in the healthy life percentage of males albeit that this development was only statistically significant for age 45 years. For females the healthy life percentage appears to be declining. This is in concordance with the results of some trend studies from other countries. They give support to the expansion of morbidity. Recent studies, however, suggest a relative compression of morbidity for severe disability. The analysis of health expectancies by socioeconomic class revealed that in the Netherlands an impressive difference of more than 10% between high and low socioeconomic status also exists, which tallies with findings in Great Britain.

Keywords: health expectancy; disability free life expectancy; trends; compression of morbidity; socioeconomic differences

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Economics of Health ; Health, Illness, and Medicine

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