World Health Day 2012 - Ageing and health

Our world is changing

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In the 21st century, health is determined by and contributes to broad social trends. Economies are globalizing, more and more people live and work in cities, family patterns are changing and technology is evolving rapidly. One of the biggest social transformations is population ageing. Soon, the world will have more older people than children and more people of very old age than ever before.

  1. The world will have more people who live to see their 80s or 90s than ever before. The number of people aged 80 years or older, for example, will have almost quadrupled to 395 million between 2000 and 2050. There is no historical precedent for a majority of middle-aged and older adults having living parents, as is already the case today. More children will know their grandparents and even their great-grandparents, especially their great-grandmothers. On average, women live six to eight years longer than men.
  2. The past century has seen remarkable improvements in life expectancy. In 1910, the life expectancy for a Chilean female was 33 years; today, a mere century later, it is 82 years. This represents a remarkable gain of almost 50 years of life in one century, and is largely due to improvements in public health.
  3. Soon, the world will have more older people than children. Within the next five years, for the first time in human history, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of 5. By 2050, these older adults will outnumber children under the age of 14.
  4. The world population is rapidly ageing. Between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over 60 years will double from about 11% to 22%. The absolute number of people aged 60 years and over is expected to increase from 605 million to 2 billion over the same period.
  5. Low and middle-income countries will experience the most rapid and dramatic demographic change. For example, it took more than 100 years for the share of France's population aged 65 or older to double from 7 to 14%. In contrast, it will take countries like Brazil and China less than 25 years to reach the same growth.
  • The number of people today aged 60 and over has doubled since 1980.
  • The number of people aged 80 years will almost quadruple to 395 million between now and 2050.
  • Within the next five years, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of 5.
  • By 2050, these older adults will outnumber all children under the age of 14.
  • The majority of older people live in low- or middle-income countries. By, 2050, this number will have increased to 80%.