Longer life, but more years with a physical disability

30/09/2014 15:00

Although Dutch people are living to older ages, they are no longer doing so in perfect health. The number of years they have to cope with a disability is increasing.  These are mostly minor physical limitations, such as hearing, visual and mobility problems. The number of years people live with more serious disabilities is not increasing.

Most years disability-free

For men, life expectancy, the number of years a person can expect to live, rose from 75.8 years for men in 2001 to 79.4 years in 2013, an increase of 3.6 years. They can expect to live 53 of these years without a physical disability. The number of years they suffer from minor physical limitations is almost 18. These are the years in which people find it more difficult to read a newspaper, follow a conversation and lift heavy shopping bags. The period they will have to cope with more serious physical disabilities is 8 years. 
The number of years men live with moderate and serious disabilities has remained about the same since 2001. The period they can expect to live with minor physical limitations rose by nearly 4 years.

Years with and without physical disability, men

Years with and without physical disability, men

Women also experience minor limitations for a longer period

For women we see a similar pattern. They, too, live to older ages, although at 2.3 years the increase was smaller than that for men. Life expectancy for women was higher than that for men in 2013: 83 years. But women enjoy a shorter period without a disability (50 years), and they spend 20 years with minor and 13 years with serious disabilities. The number of years with moderate and serious disabilities has not increased for women either since 2001, while the number of years with minor limitations rose for them too.

Years with and without physical disability, women

Years with and without physical disability, women

Many years with serious disabilities for older women

Statistics Netherlands recently reported that in 2019, over half the adult population will be aged 50 years or older. As most physical disabilities occur at older ages, a large part of the Dutch adult population will be suffering from some ailment or other from then onwards. Life expectancy of 50 year-olds was nearly 35 years for women and just over 31 years for men in 2013. For both men and women, this period will comprise 13 disability-free years. The number of years with physical disabilities will therefore clearly be higher for women than for men. This is mainly the result of the substantially longer period women will live with serious disabilities.

Expected years with and without physical disabilities at 50 years of age

Expected years with and without physical disabilities at 50 years of age