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Healthy lifespan inequality: Measurement, trends and determinants

Project description

Are healthy lives longer and equitably shared?

Global average life expectancy – an estimate of how many years a person might be expected to live – is on the rise. It increased 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016. According to the World Health Organization, this was the fastest increase since the 1960s. But what about an estimate of how long a person will live in good health? And what about the extent of inequality in the length of individuals’ lives? The former question about disease-free life expectancy is important in terms of quality of life and healthcare expenditures, and the later addresses equity concerns with important ethical implications. The EU-funded HEALIN project is introducing the concept of ‘healthy lifespan inequality’ to investigate the extent to which healthy lifespans are unequally distributed across the population. It will analyse socio-economic and health data in search of trends in healthy lifespan inequality and co-morbidity.


Despite its widespread use and popularity, life expectancy (LE) has two shortcomings. First, its definition only takes into consideration mortality levels, thus ignoring the health status of those who remain alive. Second, LE is an average that does not explain how length of life is distributed across the population. These limitations have generated two strands of research (i.e. the study of ‘health expectancies’ (HE) and ‘lifespan inequality’ (LI)) that, so far, have developed independently from each other. The overarching objective of the HEALIN project is to bring together these research avenues into a coherent whole to get a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary population health dynamics. To attain this goal, I put forward the new concept of ‘healthy lifespan inequality’ (HLI), which is designed to investigate the extent to which healthy lifespans are unequally distributed across the population.

The HEALIN project will (i) investigate the trends and determinants of HLI, (ii) assess whether the specific ages and causes that drive changes in HLI are the same ones determining the changes in LE, HE and LI indicators, and (iii) investigate how these indicators behave across and within countries and socio-economic groups. In addition, the project aims at making innovative contributions to the measurement of co-morbidity and to our understanding on how the latter can in turn influence the measurement of health expectancy and healthy lifespan inequality. To attain these objectives, the project will develop path-breaking analytical methods inspired in the models applied for the study of inequality and multidimensional poverty. Besides traditional socio-economic and health data sources, the project will complementary draw from the vastly underutilized health registers for the entire population in Catalonia (7.5 million residents). Their huge size and micro-level design allow investigating trends in HLI and co-morbidity with unprecedented detail.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 448 125,00
Cerdanyola v gr universitat aut barcelona edifici e
08193 Barcelona

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Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)