World's older population growing rapidly, report finds

The world’s older population is growing at an unprecedented rate, a new U.S. Census Bureau analysis finds, with 8.5 percent of people worldwide aged 65 and older. The report, “An Aging World: 2015,” projects that the percentage will reach 17 by 2050— an increase its authors say could pose potentially costly public health care challenges.

Researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) examined demographic, health and socioeconomic trends to compile the data. They were careful to point out that though people are living longer, they aren’t necessarily healthier.

“Older people are a rapidly growing proportion of the world’s population,” NIA director Richard Hodes, M.D., said in a news release. “People are living longer, but that does not necessarily mean that they are living healthier. The increase in our aging population presents many opportunities and also several public health challenges that we need to prepare for.”

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The report also projects that by 2050, the global life expectancy at birth will climb from 68.6 years to 76.2 years. It estimates that the global population of people aged 80 and older will more than triple between 2015 and 2050, growing from 126.5 million to 446.6 million.

“We are seeing population aging in every country in every part of the world,” John Haaga, Ph.D., acting director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research, said in the news release. “Many countries in Europe and Asia are further along in the process, or moving more rapidly, than we are in the United States. Since population aging affects so many aspects of public life— acute and long-term health care needs; pensions, work and retirement; transportation; housing— there is a lot of potential for learning from each other’s experience.”