BACKGROUND: The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing seeks an increase of two healthy life years (HLY) at birth in the EU27 for the next 10 years. We assess the feasibility of doing so between 2010 and 2020 and the differential impact among countries by applying different scenarios to current trends in HLY. METHODS: Data comprised HLY and life expectancy (LE) at birth 2004-09 from Eurostat. We estimated HLY in 2010 in each country by multiplying the Eurostat projections of LE in 2010 by the ratio HLY/LE obtained either from country and sex-specific linear regression models of HLY/LE on year (seven countries retaining same HLY question) or extrapolating the average of HLY/LE in 2008 and 2009 to 2010 (20 countries and EU27). The first scenario continued these trends with three other scenarios exploring different HLY gap reductions between 2010 and 2020. RESULTS: The estimated gap in HLY in 2010 was 17.5 years (men) and 18.9 years (women). Assuming current trends continue, EU27 HLY increased by 1.4 years (men) and 0.9 years (women), below the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing target, with the HLY gap between countries increasing to 18.3 years (men) and 19.5 years (women). To eliminate the HLY gap in 20 years, the EU27 must gain 4.4 HLY (men) and 4.8 HLY (women) in the next decade, which, for some countries, is substantially more than what the current trends suggest. CONCLUSION: Global targets for HLY move attention from inter-country differences and, alongside the current economic crisis, may contribute to increase health inequalities.
European Journal of Public Health, 2013, Vol 23, Issue 5, p. 829-33