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Disease-free life expectancy has not improved in Spain

Disease-free life expectancy has not improved in Spain Cover

Pilar Zueras, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, and Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics and

Elisenda Rentería, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to the continuous progression in life expectancy at birth, in which Spain was one of the world leaders. Although this downward effect is a result of the present conjuncture and it is hoped that recovery will be swift in the coming years, this situation has led us to consider the evolution prior to the pandemic. It is true that the increase in number of years of life has been progressive and steady but, in recent years, these gains have not implied improved health among the older population. Disability-free life expectancy at the age of 65 has been very stable over time, but the figures are less encouraging when the presence of diseases and chronic conditions are taken into account. In this issue of Perspectives Demogràfiques, we investigate whether there have been gains or losses in years of disease-free life for men and women at the age of 65 in Spain and by autonomous community (AC) in the years 2006, 2012, and 2017. The results indicate that increased life expectancy will also mean that people will live more time with diagnosed diseases unless the present trend is reversed. The most common ailments and conditions include hypertension, chronic back pain, diabetes, and heart disease. The differences between men and women tend to converge in years of life in good health, mainly as a result of a lengthening of time lived in poor health among men