Objectives. We used data from multiple national health surveys to systematically track the health of the US adult population.
Methods. We estimated trends in quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) from 1987 to 2008 by using national mortality data combined with data on symptoms and impairments from the National Medical Expenditure Survey (1987), National Health Interview Survey (1987, 1994-1995, 1996), Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (1992, 1996, 2000-2008), National Nursing Home Survey (1985, 1995, and 1999), and Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (1992, 1994-2008). We decomposed QALE into changes in life expectancy, impairments, symptoms, and smoking and body mass index.
Results. Years of QALE increased overall and for all demographic groups-men, women, Whites, and Blacks-despite being slowed by increases in obesity and a rising prevalence of some symptoms and impairments. Overall QALE gains were large: 2.4 years at age 25 years and 1.7 years at age 65 years.
Conclusions. Understanding and consistently tracking the drivers of QALE change is central to informed policymaking. Harmonizing data from multiple national surveys is an important step in building this infrastructure. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print September 12, 2013: e1-e10. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301250).
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/allison_rosen/49/