World's population aging at unprecedented rate
17 August 2009
The average age of the world’s population is increasing at an
unprecedented rate. The number of people worldwide aged 65 and older is
estimated at 506 million as of midyear 2008 and by 2040 it is likely to
reach 1.3 billion at current trends. Thus, in just over 30 years, the
proportion of older people will double from 7% to 14% of the total world
population, according to a new report by the US National Institute on
Aging (NIA), An Aging World: 2008 .
The report examines the demographic and socioeconomic trends
accompanying this phenomenon. It was commissioned by the National
Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and
produced by the US Census Bureau.
“The world’s population of people over age 65 is growing rapidly, and
with it will come a number of challenges and opportunities,” said NIA
Director Richard J Hodes, MD “NIA and our partners at Census are
committed to providing the best data possible so that we can better
understand the course of population aging and its implications.”
An Aging World: 2008 examines nine international population
trends identified in 2007 by the NIA and the US Department of State (Why
Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective). An Aging
World: 2008 contains detailed information on life expectancy,
health, disability, gender balance, marital status, living arrangements,
education and literacy, labour force participation and retirement, and
pensions among older people around the world.
“Aging is affecting every country in every part of the world,” said
Richard Suzman, PhD, director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social
Research. “While there are important differences between developed and
developing countries, global aging is changing the social and economic
nature of the planet and presenting difficult challenges. The fact that,
within 10 years, for the first time in human history there will be more
people aged 65 and older than children under 5 in the world underlines
the extent of this change.”
Highlights of the report include:
- While developed nations have relatively high proportions
of people aged 65 and older, the most rapid increases in the older
population are in the developing world. The current rate of growth
of the older population in developing countries is more than double
that in developed countries, and is also double that of the total
- As of 2008, 62% (313 million) of the world’s people aged
65 and older lived in developing countries. By 2040, today’s
developing countries are likely to be home to more than 1 billion
people aged 65 and over, 76% of the projected world total.
- The oldest old, people aged 80 and older, are the fastest
growing portion of the total population in many countries. Globally,
the oldest old population is projected to increase 233%between 2008
and 2040, compared with 160% for the population aged 65 and over and
33% for the total population of all ages.
- The 65-and-older population in China and India alone
numbered 166 million in 2008, nearly one-third of the world’s total.
Issues related to population aging in the world’s two most populous
nations will be accentuated in the coming decades as the absolute
number climbs to 551 million in 2040 (329 million in China and 222
million in India).
- Childlessness among European and US women aged 65 in 2005
ranged from less than 8% in the Czech Republic to 15% in Austria and
Italy. Twenty percent of women aged 40–44 in the United States in
2006 had no biologic children. These data raise questions about the
provision of care when this cohort reaches advanced ages.
- Older people provide support to as well as receive support
from their children. In countries with well-established pension and
social security programs, many older adults provide shelter and
financial assistance to their adult children and grandchildren.
Older people in developing countries, although less likely to
provide financial help to children, make substantial contributions
to family well-being through such activities as household
maintenance and grandchild care.
1. Kinsella, Kevin and Wan He, An Aging World: 2008, US Census
Bureau, International Population Reports, P95/09-1. US Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2009. The report is available at
www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/p95-09-1.pdf (PDF, 11.5Mb).
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