Background: We aimed to investigate the contribution of chronic conditions to gender differences in disability- free life expectancy (DFLE) and life expectancy with disability (LED) in Belgium in 2001, 2004 and 2008.
Methods: Data on disability and chronic conditions from participants of the 2001, 2004 and 2008 Health Interview Surveys in Belgium were used to estimate disability prevalence by cause using the attribution method. Disability prevalence was applied to life tables to estimate DFLE and LED using the Sullivan method. Decomposition techniques were used to assess the contribution of mortality and disability and further of causes of death and disability to gender disparities in DFLE and LED.
Results: Higher LE, DFLE and LED were observed for women compared with men in all years studied. A decrease in the gender gap in LE (2001: 5.9; 2004: 5.6; 2008: 5.3) was observed in our cross- sectional approach followed by a decrease in gender differences in DFLE (2001: 1.9; 2004: 1.3; 2008: 0.5) and increase in LED (2001: 4.0; 2004: 4.4; 2008: 4.8). The higher LED in women was attributed to their lower mortality due to lung/larynx/trachea cancer, ischaemic heart diseases, and external causes (2001 and 2004) and higher disability prevalence due to musculoskeletal conditions (2008). Higher DFLE was observed in women owing to their lower mortality from lung/larynx/trachea cancer, ischaemic heart diseases, digestive cancer and chronic re- spiratory diseases.
Conclusion: To promote healthy ageing of populations, priority should be given to reduce the LED disadvantage in women by targeting non-fatal diseases, such as musculoskeletal conditions.