Remaining life expectancy among older people in a rural area of Vietnam: trends and socioeconomic inequalities during a period of multiple transitions

Hoi, Le V.; Phuc, Ho D.; Dung, Truong V.; Chuc, Nguyen T. K.; Lindholm, Lars
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p471
Academic Journal
Background: Better understanding of the trends and disparities in health at old age in terms of life expectancy will help to provide appropriate responses to the growing needs of health and social care for the older population in the context of limited resources. As a result of rapid economic, demographic and epidemiological changes, the number of people aged 60 and over in Vietnam is increasing rapidly, from 6.7% in 1979 to 9.2% in 2006. Life expectancy at birth has increased but not much are known about changes in old ages. This study assesses the trends and socioeconomic inequalities in RLE at age 60 in a rural area in an effort to highlight this vulnerable group and to anticipate their future health and social needs. Methods: An abridged life table adjusted for small area data was used to estimate cohort life expectancies at old age and the corresponding 95% confidence intervals from longitudinal data collected by FilaBavi DSS during 1999- 2006, which covered 7,668 people at age 60+ with 43,272 person-years, out of a total of 64,053 people with 388,278 person-years. Differences in life expectancy were examined according to socioeconomic factors, including socio-demographic characteristics, wealth, poverty and living arrangements. Results: Life expectancies at age 60 have increased by approximately one year from the period 1999-2002 to 2003-2006. The increases are observed in both sexes, but are significant among females and relate to improvements among those who belong to the middle and upper household wealth quintiles. However, life expectancy tends to decrease in the most vulnerable groups. There is a wide gap in life expectancy according to poverty status and living arrangements, and the gap by poverty status has widened over the study period. The gender gap in life expectancy is consistent across all socioeconomic groups and tends to be wider amongst the more disadvantaged population. Conclusions: There is a trend of increasing life expectancy among older people in rural areas of Vietnam. Inequalities in life expectancy exist between socioeconomic groups, especially between different poverty levels and also patterns of living arrangements. These inequalities should be addressed by appropriate social and health policies with stronger targeting of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups.


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