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Vitality Research Institute

Maximising your quality of life

How increasing your healthspan can improve your quality of life

Our Latest Research

Maximising the number of years lived in good health

While life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last century, people are not living all of those extra years in good health. Our research paper looks at the healthspan data and aims to address this growing gap between length and quality of life. It highlights the changes that people can make to support their health, as well as their retirement.
Read the report

Looking beyond life expectancy

When we discuss healthspan, it’s important to make clear the distinction between the term’s lifespan and healthspan. What is healthspan?

Healthspan [or healthy life expectancy]

The number of years a person can expect to live in good health.

Lifespan [or life expectancy]

The number of years a person lives.

Healthspan gap
The difference between a person's lifespan and their healthspan due to factors like disease, injury and frailty. 

The widening healthspan gap in the UK

The good news is that better healthcare treatment and technologies have led to longer lifespans in the UK.

However, while life expectancy has grown by over five years since 1990, healthy life expectancy has grown at a slower rate. Partly due to lifestyle choices, this has led to a widening healthspan gap and lower quality of life. Currently the healthspan data shows around 7.3 million healthy years of life are lost in the UK every year.

The implications of a widening healthspan gap

The effects of a widening healthspan gap can be seen elsewhere too. UK workforces are experiencing productivity loss, causing businesses to lose up to £39 billion per year. This is down to the poor lifestyle choices and mental health issues of employees. Furthermore, largely preventable chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, are becoming more common. This means the healthcare system is facing mounting costs as well.

From this, it’s clear that improving our healthspan should be a top priority. The economic pay-off of reducing the healthspan gap is considerable. What's more, reversing the causes of the widening healthspan gap will allow the benefits to be sustained long into the future.

Prevention and behaviour change are the solution

So, what can be done to improve healthspan?

To encourage healthy lifestyle behaviours and reduce metabolic risks, and ultimately increase healthspan overall, we need well-structured health strategies that combine treatment with prevention. These should be a coalition of individual, corporate and governmental action. The positive consequences of improving healthspan will not just benefit the individual, but the collective, as it will have knock-on effects for the economy.

Our report highlights physical activity and a healthy diet as key actions. An encouraging health insurance plan can contribute here, too. To examine our reasons, as well as our proposed action points, read the full report.

"While life expectancy provides a measure of a society’s progress, it is our health span, the number of years we can expect to live in good health, that should demand our attention with a focus on quality of life."

- Professor Dame Carol Black
Expert Adviser on Health and Work to the Department of Health (England) and former Principal of Newnham College Cambridge

More research

  • Apple Watch study

    We wrote this study in partnership with RAND Europe. It assesses the link between Vitality’s Active Rewards with Apple Watch benefit and a sustained improvement in physical activity.

  • Workplace study

    This article looks at how companies’ wellbeing strategies affect employee health and wellbeing. We carried out the study in collaboration with University of East Anglia researchers.

  • Employee engagement

    This study explores how engagement in workplace wellness interventions impact employee health. We carried this out in collaboration with researchers from Stanford University.

  • Global physical activity

    We carried this study out with RAND Europe and researchers from the University of Birmingham. It looks at how an increase in physical activity can benefit the global economy.