Life expectancy is an indication of how many years a person can expect to live, assuming death rates do not change. The term ‘health expectancy’ is used to describe, within a person’s life expectancy, the expected years spent in various health states from birth to death, such as years with disability. However, disability does not necessarily equate to poor health or illness.
Expected years with disability should not be considered as being of less value than ‘health’ years (without disability). Life expectancy in Australia has risen markedly since the beginning of the twentieth century. For policy development, service planning, and population health and wellbeing, it is important to know whether the extra years in life expectancy at birth and at older ages are healthy or are marked by increasing disability and dependence.
In short, older Australians are living longer and, on average, getting more years of life without severe or profound limitation in basic daily activities than with it. On the other hand, the ageing of the Australian population and the increasing longevity of people are leading to a greater number of older people with disability and severe or profound activity limitation.