How To… Visualise the ‘Healthy Life Expectancy’ Disparity

Courtesy Diego Torres Silvestre

What is a healthy life expectancy?

The measure of a healthy life expectancy (HALE) is different from that of average life expectancy. The latter refers to the average (mean) amount of years a human can expect to live; the former refers to how many they can expect to live in good health.

The disparity between them is often depressing: According to Eurostat, in 2011 the average French citizen could expect to live in good health for 63 years, while their total life expectancy was 81 years. That’s almost two decades of living in poor health. Since ‘life expectancy’ is frequently used as a measure of a country’s success, that statistic often masks the reality of its population’s senescence and poor health.

So to visualise exactly how great the disparity between life expectancy and HALE really is, I created an interactive visual on Tableau Public. Using the data from 2012 – 2008 (the last five years available), I mapped out each country’s life expectancy and HALE. Navigate through the years through the tabs at the top, hover over a country to see the difference in stark figures, then click on the country to see that graphed.

While it may seem depressing on first viewing, it’s important to note that overall the healthy life expectancy across Europe has, in fact, gone up slightly. Over such a small section of analysis, this is hardly statistical significant, but since it falls in line with figures from the OECD that suggest HALE will increasingly become a larger percentage of a population’s overall life expectancy, it is certainly a cause for optimism.

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