European Concerted Action On
Harmonization Of Health Expectancy Calculation In Europe
Sub-Committee On Research Design and Calculation Methods
June 1996 (revised 1997)
The concept of a health indicator which combined information on mortality and morbidity was first proposed by Sanders in 1964 . The first example of such an indicator was published in a report of the US department of Health Education and Welfare in 1969. It contained preliminary estimates of ``Disability-free Life Expectancy'' calculated using a method devised by Sullivan . This method can be applied to any state of health definition and, up to now, has been used to provide health indicators on populations of, at least, 37 countries .
The Sullivan indicator reflects the current health chart of a real population adjusted for mortality levels. It rests on the input of prevalence measures of the age specific proportions of the population in healthy and unhealthy conditions, generally gathered in cross-sectional surveys, and on the use of informations taken from a period life table. The interest of the Sullivan indicator comes from its simplicity, its relative accuracy and the possibility to interpret its meaning. Indeed, under certain assumptions, it provides approximate estimations of the time individuals will be likely to spend in different health conditions in the future. Now, the calculation of these health expectancies is of evident interest.