Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and colleagues found life expectancy increased in 19 of 21 regions around the world but people are spending their later years living in relatively poor health.
Comparing healthy life expectancy for 187 countries in 1990 and 2010, the researchers were able to evaluate major patterns and trends in global health over two decades.
Gains in healthy life expectancy during the last two decades have been made primarily through reductions in child and adult mortality, rather than reductions in years lived with a disability, the researchers said.
"In the past two decades, there has been less attention toward reducing the impact of non-fatal disease and injury than towards reducing mortality," Dr. Haidong Wang, professor of global health at IHME, said in a statement. "As the global population is living longer, efforts to improve health need to also incorporate the burden of disease that affects how we function."
With more people surviving to more advanced ages, there is increased recognition of the need to prioritize healthy aging, the researchers said.
The findings were published in The Lancet.