Differences in life expectancy in good health can be considered as an indicator of inequality in living conditions (lifestyle, social position and mental health).
At birth, men and women are not equal in terms of the number of years in good health ahead of them: Swiss women can expect 71.7 years in good health whereas their male counterparts can expect 70.7. Among foreign nationals, the gap tends to favour men, who at birth have a life expectancy in good health of 65.8 years. This is 0.5 years more than female foreign nationals. The gap between Swiss and foreign nationals is greatest among women, with a difference of 6.4 years. Among men this difference is 4.9 years.
With regard to life expectancy at birth, the relative difference in life expectancy at 65 between Swiss and foreign nationals of the same sex has increased. At this age, Swiss men and women can hope to live for more than 14 years whereas foreigners have a life expectancy of less than 12 years.
Life expectancy in good health is determined by life expectancy at specific ages and by the proportion of people who, at these specific ages, say that they are in good or poor health. The concept of life in good health, therefore, takes into account not only the length of life but also the quality of health in the years of life that have passed.
To calculate life expectancy in good health, we use the method suggested by Sullivan (1971). The following basic data are necessary:
- number of deaths in a given year (broken down by age and sex)
- permanent resident population in a given year (broken down by age and sex)
- presence of people in good or very good health in a given year (broken down by age and sex)