Self-rated health and disability at age 65 and over

Even as life expectancy at age 65 has increased across OECD countries, many adults spend a high proportion of their older lives in poor or fair health (see indicator “Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at age 65”). In 2019, more than half the population aged 65 and over in 36 OECD countries reported being in poor or fair health (Figure 10.5). Older people in eastern European OECD countries reported some of the highest rates of poor or fair health: more than four-fifths of people aged 65 and over reported their health to be fair, poor or very poor in Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Estonia and Hungary. Women are slightly more likely to report being in poor or fair health than men: 57% of women reported their health to be fair, poor or very poor on average across OECD countries in 2019, compared with 53% of men. Less than 40% of the total population aged 65 and over reported being in poor or fair health in Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. The lowest rate of poor or fair health for women was reported in Ireland (28.8%), while the lowest rate for men was reported in Switzerland (30.1%).

In all OECD countries with available data, older people in the lowest income quintile are more likely to rate their health as poor than those in the highest quintile (Figure 10.6). Across 26 OECD countries on average, nearly one in three (27.1%) people in the lowest income quintile reported their health to be poor or very poor in 2019, compared with one in nine (11.1%) among those in the highest quintile. In all but five countries (Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece), people in the lowest income quintile are at least twice as likely to report their health as poor, compared with those in the highest quintile. In six countries – Norway, Lithuania, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Sweden – adults aged 65 and over in the lowest income quintile are at least four times as likely to report living in poor health, compared with adults 65 and over in the highest quintile.

Across 27 European OECD countries, 50% of people aged 65 and over reported having at least some limitations in their daily activities: 34% reported some limitations and a further 16% reported severe limitations (Figure 10.7). Many of the countries reporting the highest rates of self-rated poor health also reported high rates of limitations in daily activities. In the Slovak Republic and Latvia, nearly three in four adults aged 65 and over reported at least some limitations to activities of daily living, while in Estonia, the Slovak Republic and Turkey one in four adults aged 65 and over reported severe limitations. In contrast, only about one in five people aged 65 and over in Sweden (21%) and Norway (23%) reported having limitations in their daily activities.

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