Matrix methods in health demography: a new approach to the stochastic analysis of healthy longevity and DALYs

Background: Increases in human longevity have made it critical to distinguish healthy longevity from longevity without regard to health. Current methods focus on expectations of healthy longevity, and are often limited to binary health outcomes (e.g., disabled vs. not disabled). We present a new matrix formulation for the statistics of healthy longevity, based on health prevalence data and Markov chain theory, applicable to any kind of health outcome and which provides variances and higher moments as well as expectations of healthy life.

Conclusions: The method extends, in several directions, current calculations of health expectancy (HE) and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). It applies to both categorical and continuous health outcomes, to combinations of multiple outcomes (e.g., death and disability in the formulation of DALYs) and to age- or stage-classified models. It reveals previously unreported patterns of variation among individuals in the outcomes of healthy longevity.

Reference: Caswell, H.; Zarulli, Virginia

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