Changes in social inequalities in disability-free life expectancy in Southern Europe: the case of the Basque Country
International Journal for equity in health 13 : (2014) // Article ID 74
Background: Health expectancy is a useful tool to monitor health inequalities. The evidence about the recent changes in social inequalities in healthy expectancy is relatively scarce and inconclusive, and most studies have focused on Anglo-Saxon and central or northern European countries. The objective of this study was to analyse the changes in socioeconomic inequalities in disability-free life expectancy in a Southern European population, the Basque Country, during the first decade of the 21st century. Methods: This was an ecological cross-sectional study of temporal trends on the Basque population in 1999-2003 and 2004-2008. All-cause mortality rate, life expectancy, prevalence of disability and disability free-life expectancy were calculated for each period according to the deprivation level of the area of residence. The slope index of inequality and the relative index of inequality were calculated to summarize and compare the inequalities in the two periods. Results: Disability free-life expectancy decreased as area deprivation increased both in men and in women. The difference between the most extreme groups in 2004-2008 was 6.7 years in men and 3.7 in women. Between 1999-2003 and 2004-2008, socioeconomic inequalities in life expectancy decreased, and inequalities in disability-free expectancy increased in men and decreased in women. Conclusions: This study found important socioeconomic inequalities in health expectancy in the Basque Country. These inequalities increased in men and decreased in women in the first decade of the 21st century, during which the Basque Country saw considerable economic growth.