Abstract Background The amount of time spent living with disease greatly influences elderly people’s wellbeing, disability and healthcare costs, but differs by disease, age and sex. Methods We assessed how various single and combined diseases differentially affect life years spent living with disease in Dutch elderly men and women (65+) over their remaining life course. Multistate life table calculations were applied to age and sex-specific disease prevalence, incidence and death rates for the Netherlands in 2007. We distinguished congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease (CHD), breast and prostate cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, COPD, stroke, dementia and osteoarthritis. Results Across ages 65, 70, 75, 80 and 85, CHD caused the most time spent living with disease for Dutch men (from 7.6 years at age 65 to 3.7 years at age 85) and osteoarthritis for Dutch women (from 11.7 years at age 65 to 4.8 years at age 85). Of the various co-occurrences of disease, the combination of diabetes and osteoarthritis led to the most time spent living with disease, for both men (from 11.2 years at age 65 to 4.9 -years at age 85) and women (from 14.2 years at age 65 to 6.0 years at age 85). Conclusions Specific single and multi-morbid diseases affect men and women differently at different phases in the life course in terms of the time spent living with disease, and consequently, their potential disability. Timely sex and age-specific interventions targeting prevention of the single and combined diseases identified could reduce healthcare costs and increase wellbeing in elderly people.
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