Health span vs life span – what does it mean?

In 1974, 50 years ago, the average life expectancy in the US was 71.96 years. In 2024, our average life expectancy in the US is 79.25 years.

That’s great news! In the past 50 years, we’ve increased our average lifespan by 10% – 7 years and some change!

How are those years being lived?

health span older exercising

“Globally, life expectancy has increased by more than 6 years between 2000 and 2019 – from 66.8 years in 2000 to 73.4 years in 2019. While healthy life expectancy (HALE) has also increased by 8% from 58.3 in 2000 to 63.7, in 2019, this was due to declining mortality rather than reduced years lived with disability. In other words, the increase in HALE (5.4 years) has not kept pace with the increase in life expectancy (6.6 years).” – World Health Org

Saying that is close, that the increase of life expectancy is close to the increase of healthy life expectancy, may seem correct. However, when we are talking about 8.02 billion lives to consider as of January of this year. 1% of 8,019,876,189 people is over 80 million people.

Let’s take it out of the numerical context. These are our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. 

Also, ultimately, it’s us.

I’ve spoken with so many of you that want to live a healthy, full life. If you’re reading this, chances are, you too want to have a good quality of life as you age. You want a good health span, not just a good life span.

Preserving our ability to move, particularly pain-free, is important. Giving our health the attention it needs for us to recover from or stay free from disease is important.

Each of us likely can think of ones that have gone before us who have passed “too early,” or suffered a decreased quality of living for a longer period of time that could have been taken care of differently.

I hope that this information, thought, and perspective fuels more motivation for you and inspires you to take good care of yourself for a longer health span!

Instead of “how many more years will I live?” perhaps change the question to, “how many more years will I live well?”

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