Summary of important quality information that you need to know before using this data.

Description of QMI doc: Health Expectancies at Birth and at Age 65 in the United Kingdom Quality and Methodology Information .PDF attached to this page contains further information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data
  • the quality of the output: including the accuracy of the data, how it compares with related data
  • uses and users
  • how the output was created

Important points about sub-national life expectancy estimates

  • Estimates of healthy life expectancy (HLE) and disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) cover the UK and its constituent countries at birth and at age 65 and are available from 2000 to 2002; estimates for England and Great Britain only are available between 1980 to 1982 and 1999 to 2001, but these are not comparable for HLE.
  • HLE and DFLE are calculated using subjective self-reports of health status collected in national population surveys, which are then combined with data on mortality.
  • HLE aims to measure longevity in the context of health related well-being; DFLE aims to measure longevity in the context of functional health status.
  • Each measure is calculated through extending the abridged life table approach according to the method devised by Sullivan, which partitions years lived in favourable and unfavourable health states using current mortality and health prevalence rates.
  • No assumptions are made about future changes in mortality or health prevalence.
  • HLE and DFLE are comparable across specified populations providing that health status has been measured consistently using harmonised survey questions.


From 2005 to 2007, healthy life expectancy (HLE) was calculated using a European Union (EU) harmonised general health question to improve comparability across EU member states. A time series of synthetic HLE estimates for the UK between 2000 to 2002 and 2004 to 2006 based on the EU harmonised general health question is included in the reference tables. The method underlying the synthetic series is explained in the article An investigation into the impact of question change on estimates of General Health Status and Healthy Life Expectancy.

Disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) is calculated using information on long-standing illness and whether it restricts daily activities. These questions remained unaltered between 1980 to 1982 and 2009 to 2011. However, these questions have been replaced using new primary harmonised standard questions developed by us in collaboration with other government departments, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and third sector organisations.

HLE measures the average number of years a person would live in good general health from a given age if he or she experienced the prevailing mortality and health prevalence rates for that country for the rest of their life. DFLE is a measure of functional health status and estimates the average number of years a male or female would live free from a long-lasting health condition that limits their normal day to day activities if he or she experienced the prevailing mortality and limiting illness prevalence rates for that country for the rest of their life. The trend in HLE or DFLE can be used in conjunction with life expectancy to determine whether life years gained are being spent healthy and free from activity restrictions.

National health expectancy metrics are high-level outcome indicators which support cross-national and international comparison, national health and social care strategies, healthy ageing strategies and in assessment of the fairness of state pension age increases. An example of their use can be found in the House of Commons Health Committee: Public health report. HLE is also use as two overarching indicators in the Public Health Outcomes framework as a measure of health improvement over time for local authorities and to monitor the gap in HLE between the least and most deprived populations.

We have compiled a broad spectrum of information across local authorities to determine why there is a 14-year gap in HLE planned to publish in October as part of the independent review of the state pension age in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions.

These statistics are currently undergoing a review of methods to enable extension of the life table method to close at 90+ and for a change to the survey source. Interim results will be published in November 2016.

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