Original Investigation

European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 229-237

First online:

Gender gaps in life expectancy and expected years with activity limitations at age 50 in the European Union: associations with macro-level structural indicators

  • Herman Van OyenAffiliated withDepartment of Public Health and Surveillance, Scientific Institute of Public Health Email author 
  • , Bianca CoxAffiliated withDepartment of Public Health and Surveillance, Scientific Institute of Public Health
  • , Carol JaggerAffiliated withDepartment of Health Sciences, University of LeicesterInstitute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University
  • , Emmanuelle CamboisAffiliated withFrench Institute for Demographic Studies, INED
  • , Wilma NusselderAffiliated withErasmus Medical Center, University Medical Center Rotterdam
  • , Clare GillesAffiliated withDepartment of Health Sciences, University of Leicester
  • , Jean-Marie RobineAffiliated withFrench Institute of Health and Medical Research, INSERM

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Abstract

Women generally live longer than men, but women’s longer lives are not necessarily healthy lives. The aim of this article is to describe the pattern of gender differences in expected years with and without activity limitations across 25 EU countries and to explore the association between gender differences and macro-level factors. We applied to the Eurostat life table’s data from the Statistics of Income and Living Conditions Survey to estimate gender differences in life expectancy with and without activity limitations at age 50 for 2005. We studied the relationship between the gender differences and structural indicators using meta-regression techniques. Differences in years with activity limitations between genders were associated with the life expectancy (LE) and the size of the gender difference in LE. Gender difference in years with activity limitations were larger as the gross domestic product, the expenditure on elderly care and the indicator of life-long learning decreased, and as the inequality in income distribution increased. There was evidence of disparity in the associations between the more established EU countries (EU15) and the newer EU10 countries. Among the EU15, gender differences were positively associated with income inequality, the proportion of the population with a low education and the men’s mean exit age from labour force. Among the EU10, inequalities were smaller with increasing expenditure in elderly care, with decreasing poverty risk and with decreasing employment rate of older people. The association between structural indicators and the gender gap in years with activity limitations suggests that gender differences can be reduced.

Keywords

Gender inequality Health expectancy Life expectancy Healthy life years Global Activity Limitation Index