Understanding the Improvement in Disability Free Life Expectancy in the U.S. Elderly Population

67 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2016

See all articles by Michael Chernew

Michael Chernew

Harvard University - Department of Health Care Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Kaushik Ghosh

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School

Date Written: June 2016

Abstract

Understanding how healthy lifespans are changing is essential for public policy. This paper explores changes in healthy lifespan in the U.S. over time and considers reasons for the changes. We reach three fundamental conclusions. First, we show that healthy life increased measurably in the US between 1992 and 2008. Years of healthy life expectancy at age 65 increased by 1.8 years over that time period, while disabled life expectancy fell by 0.5 years. Second, we identify the medical conditions that contribute the most to changes in healthy life expectancy. The largest improvements in healthy life expectancy come from reduced incidence and improved functioning for those with cardiovascular disease and vision problems. Together, these conditions account for 63 percent of the improvement in disability-free life expectancy. Third and more speculatively, we explore the role of medical treatments in the improvements for these two conditions. We estimate that improved medical care is likely responsible for a significant part of the cardiovascular and vision-related extension of healthy life.

Suggested Citation

Chernew, Michael E. and Cutler, David M. and Ghosh, Kaushik and Landrum, Mary Beth, Understanding the Improvement in Disability Free Life Expectancy in the U.S. Elderly Population (June 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22306. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2790703

Michael E. Chernew (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Health Care Policy ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Kaushik Ghosh

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Department of Health Care Policy
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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