Disability-free life expectancy is a common measure used by demographers to gauge quantity and quality of life. Yet, the extent to which positive dimensions of quality of life differ by disability status remains unexplored. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 16,614), we estimated happy life expectancy by age, race, sex, and severe Activities of Daily Living (ADL) limitations. First, results show that happy life expectancy differed substantially by disability status, as older adults with severe ADL limitations experienced 50–60% fewer remaining years of their life happy compared to their more able-bodied peers. Second, healthy Black women and men at age fifty can expect to live five fewer years of their remaining life happy compared to their White peers, but there were no significant race or sex differences among individuals with severe ADL limitations. Finally, the racial gap in Happy Life Expectancy between Black and White women was largely accounted for by group differences in marital status, education, and wealth, but Black men continued to be disadvantaged compared to their White peers. Implications of this study point to a need to critically examine the intersections of race and sex to develop a clearer portrait of the pattern and underlying factors associated with social disparities in longevity and quality of life. Findings highlight the importance of considering positive dimensions of quality of life alongside measures of illness, disability, or disease when determining whether we are adding life to years or just years to life.
|Original language||American English|
|Journal||Population Research and Policy Review|
|State||Published - 2023|