European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 229–237 | Cite as

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 Oyen
  • Bianca Cox
  • Carol Jagger
  • Emmanuelle Cambois
  • Wilma Nusselder
  • Clare Gilles
  • Jean-Marie Robine
Original Investigation


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.


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



This work was supported by the European Public Health Programme (2006109).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herman Van Oyen
    • 1
  • Bianca Cox
    • 1
  • Carol Jagger
    • 2
    • 3
  • Emmanuelle Cambois
    • 4
  • Wilma Nusselder
    • 5
  • Clare Gilles
    • 2
  • Jean-Marie Robine
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and SurveillanceScientific Institute of Public HealthBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Health SciencesUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Institute for Ageing and HealthNewcastle UniversityNewcastleUnited Kingdom
  4. 4.French Institute for Demographic Studies, INEDParisFrance
  5. 5.Erasmus Medical CenterUniversity Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamNetherlands
  6. 6.French Institute of Health and Medical Research, INSERMParisFrance

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