The average life expectancy for the Danish population has risen significantly over the past 50 years. But are the extra years of life also good years? A new VIVE-report from the MATURE project examines, based on data from The Danish Longitudinal Study of Ageing, the health, functional ability and health lifestyle of older adults. The report is written by senior researcher Anu Siren and analyst Malene Rode Larsen, both from VIVE.

Overall, the results show that the large population of older adults in Denmark has good health, physical ability and well-being. During the period 1997-2017, Danish older adults have adopted more active and healthy lifestyles. Anu Siren says: “This is a great improvement, but at the same time we can see that the upward overall trend has begun to slow down. The results show that there is a high level of heterogeneity among the older adults. When trying to understand the implications of people living longer, we need to acknowledge the parallel development trends. For example, on one hand the younger older adults have better functioning than before and are likely to live longer, but on the other hand, physical and cognitive constraints still characterize the last years of life.”

In addition, the study shows that there are also significant differences between men and women in old age. Among other things, women assess their well-being being poorer than men do, and more women than men assess that they have cognitive difficulties. But this picture is nuanced as well, Anu Siren explains: “Men especially have benefited from healthier lifestyles, and consequently they now live longer, which again means that fewer women live alone in the late age. This is likely to have a positive effect on women’s quality of life.”

The results on Danish older adults’ health and functional ability – and the development over time – are relevant for the forecasts of health and care services demand in the future: “Late life is under transformation, and our results indicate that it is incredibly important that we as society are aware of all the nuances when we adapt our future welfare to the changes,” Anu Siren concludes.

 

More on the report here.