Aging Expectations

News – Life Expectancy, Healthy or Not?

News You Need

By now you know that I am a positive aging advocate. It is so important that people begin to think about or continue to think about aging in healthier and happier ways.

It’s important that people consider living a long life.

Now, when I say long life, most people think about 80 maybe 90. They hardly even consider 100. When I tell them that I am looking forward to 120 years, they look at me like I’m crazy (which I may be but for other reasons).

I truly believe that if we think it, we can make 120 a natural thought about lifespan length.

The main objection I receive when I give my 120 response is, “Yeah, but what kind of life is that going to be? I don’t want to be that old and sick, lying in bed, not knowing anyone.”

Agreed. I don’t want to live that way either.

However, I don’t plan on living like that. So it is important to make a distinction between HALE and LE.

HALE is HeAlthy Life Expectancy. It is the average number of years that a person can expect to live in “full health” by taking into account years lived in less than full health due to disease and/or injury.*

LE is Life Expectancy. Average number of years that a newborn is expected to live if current mortality rates continue to apply.*

In our last news article, What is Killing Us?, we discussed life expectancy (LE). You can review it by clicking here.

In continuing to look at the United States Census Bureau’s report called An Aging World, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here, I wanted to bring this distinction and some details to you related to their findings.

In the graphic below, they analyze country by country data on HALE versus LE.

Hale vs le

Looks pretty, right? But, what does it mean?

Here’s what they are telling us:

  • The 0 point on the scale indicates age 65.
  • The dark shaded areas in red and blue indicate how many additional HALE years they live after 65.
  • The lighter shaded areas in red and blue indicate how many years they will live after 65.
  • Red indicates women.
  • Blue indicates men.

Here are some interesting things to note:

  • Although French women live the longest in European countries, it is the women in Norway and Sweden who have the greater HALE.
  • The biggest obstacles in creating HALE were seen to be tobacco use and obesity.
  • Although the US is one of the wealthiest countries, is not one of the healthiest (although with all the talk around healthcare, I’m sure this is news to nobody).
  • The US does have a higher survival after age 75 than many high-income countries, lower current smoking rates, and better management of hypertension.

How to increase your HALE (at the very minimum):

  • engage in physical activity – even disabled elders benefit from engaging in physical activity
  • shed excess weight
  • don’t buy into the theory that if you have bad genes, your life is ruined – genes relate to less than one-third of longevity chances

Next time, we will talk more about Life Expectancy and what trends the WHO has noted in their report. Spoiler alert: it is very interesting!


*Definitions provided by WHO.

Sunflower Sunset by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC by Aging Expectations.

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