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We’re all living longer, but new research shows we’re also living healthier too. 

In 1920, the average woman in England could expect to live to 59 years old. 100 years later, in 2019, life expectancy was 83 years. That’s a huge leap that comes from improved science and public health information. But now new data shows that our healthspan is also improving alongside our lifespan – and that’s important.

Published in the renowned journal PLOS, the research showed that the number of healthy years a person lives is, on average, xanax allergy increasing in line with life expectancy. Between 1991 and 2011, women’s lifespan increased by 2.1 years, while our disability-free life expectancy also increased by two years. Even women with long-term health conditions, including arthritis, coronary heart disease and diabetes experienced the same increase in the number of years they can expect to live without disability. 

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However, researchers found that those living with cognitive impairments, including illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, experienced an increase in life expectancy without changes to their healthspan, making it the only chronic health condition that leads to more years being lived with disability. Overall, however, cognitive disorders are on the decline in the UK, so the number of people suffering from them is reducing.

Talking about the purpose of the study, researchers from Newcastle University wrote: “There have been many advances in healthcare since the 1990s, which means many people with health conditions are living longer lives. We wanted to find out whether the extension to life for those with health conditions involves an increase in healthy or unhealthy years.”

Lead author Holly Bennett explains that medical advances and public health practices have led to a reduction in early deaths from heart disease and stroke, but that “the focus is shifting to the need to improve quality of life and reduce the burden on individuals, health, and social care. This moves the focus from using life expectancy as the measure of success to using healthy or disability-free life expectancy, the number of years from a particular age spent healthy or free of disability.”

Healthspan is increasing, meaning we live healthier for longer

She also adds that “attention needs to be paid to support and care for people with cognitive impairment who had different outcomes to those with physical health conditions”.

Living longer is great, but living healthier is arguably more important. It means that we have more time to enjoy the freedoms that health brings, like spending time with friends and family, moving around independently and fulfilling simple tasks on our own. There are things we can all do to support our own healthspan: exercising, eating a well-balanced diet and looking after our brain health.

However, Bennett notes that there is a need for the government to fix the inequalities that impact our healthspan. The healthcare postcode lottery and the impact of lower incomes both have a huge effect on improving the likelihood of those disability-free years – particularly when it comes to conditions such as dementia. We know, for example, that there is an association between higher education and slower cognitive decline which suggests that those from lower-income backgrounds may be more at risk of cognitive impairments.

But the biggest take-home is that our healthy years seem to be continuing into later life, giving us more independence and happiness. With the current state of the world, we’ll take all the good news we can. 

Images: Getty

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