UK Older People's Day is held on 1 October each year to celebrate the contributions of older people to society. This statistical bulletin is released to coincide with the event. It includes the latest government statistics on the UK ageing population, estimates of the very elderly and life expectancy.
Quality Reports for data in this statistical bulletin are available.
The population of the UK is ageing. Over the last 25 years the percentage of the population aged 65 and over increased from 15 per cent in 1985 to 17 per cent in 2010, an increase of 1.7 million people in this age group. Over the same period, the percentage of the population aged under 16 decreased from 21 per cent to 19 per cent. This trend is projected to continue. By 2035, 23 per cent of the population is projected to be aged 65 and over compared to 18 per cent aged under 16.
Not only is the population ageing, but there has been progressive ageing of the older population itself. Most striking has been the increase in the number and proportion of the 'oldest old'. In 1985, there were around 690,000 people in the UK aged 85 and over, accounting for 1 per cent of the population, (Figure 1). Since then the numbers have more than doubled reaching 1.4 million in 2010, (2 per cent of the UK population). By 2035 the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to be 2.5 times larger than in 2010, reaching approximately 3.6 million and accounting for 5 per cent of the total population.
The ratio of women to men at older ages is falling. In 1985 there were 154 women aged 65 and over for every 100 men of the same age, compared to the current sex ratio of 127 women for every 100 men. By 2035 it is projected that the 65 and over sex ratio will have fallen still further to 118 women for every 100 men.
The ratio of female to male centenarians has also started to fall in recent years. In 2000 there were approximately nine female centenarians for every male centenarian. In 2009 there were six female centenarians for every male centenarian. By 2010 this had reduced to five. The falls in the ratios of women to men at older ages are mainly due to recent improvements in male mortality.
Latest on population estimates for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Percentages given in the text are calculated using unrounded figures.
Guide to the methodology for calculating estimates of the very elderly (including centenarians).
Latest on estimates of the very elderly (including centenarians).
65 and over population estimates for EU-27 countries are available from Eurostat. Also published in their publication Demography report 2010: older, more numerous and diverse Europeans, Luxembourg, Eurostat, April 2011.
65 and over population estimates for other countries are from the individual National Statistics Institutes:
65 and over projections for Brazil and India are from United Nations Department of Economic and Social affairs (2007-based)
Population ageing is a global demographic trend. Despite the increase in the numbers and proportion of older people over the last 25 years, population ageing in the UK has not been as rapid as for some comparable countries, (Figure 2). As a result, the UK has gone from being one of the most aged countries in Europe in 1985 to one of mid-ranking in 2010.
Outside of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States are all less aged than many of the EU-27 countries. In 2010, 14 per cent of the populations of both Canada and Australia were aged 65 and over, while in both New Zealand and the United States1 those aged 65 and over accounted for 13 per cent of the populations of these countries, respectively.
Countries with more recently emerging economies such as China1, Brazil and India2 are notably less aged. In 2010, those aged 65 and over accounted for 8, 7 and 5 per cent of their populations respectively. The world's most aged country was Japan3 with 23 per cent of the population aged 65 and over. Africa is the least aged region of the world owing both to higher fertility and much lower life expectancy. Even in relatively aged populations, centenarians account for only a very small percentage of the total population.
|Total number of centenarians||Number of centenarians per 100,000 of the total population|
National Interim Life Tables for 2008-2010 are published today. They show that life expectancy at birth in the UK has reached its highest level on record for both males and females. A newborn baby boy could expect to live 78.1 years and a newborn baby girl 82.1 years if mortality rates remain the same as they were in 2008-104.
Females continue to live longer than males, but the gap has been closing. Although both sexes have shown annual improvements in life expectancy at birth, since 1980-82 the gap has narrowed from 6 years to 4.1 years.
Based on 2008-10 mortality rates, a man aged 65 could expect to live another 17.8 years, and a woman aged 65 another 20.4 years. The difference between male and female life expectancy in the UK at age 65 has decreased from 4 years in 1980-82 to 2.6 years in 2008-10.
Within the UK, life expectancy varies by country (Table 2). England has the highest life expectancy at birth, 78.4 years for males and 82.4 years for females, while Scotland has the lowest, 75.8 years for males and 80.3 years for females.
England also has the highest life expectancy at age 65 and Scotland the lowest for both men and women.
|At birth||At age 65|
Across the EU-27 countries, in 20095 the UK was ranked joint 6th for male life expectancy and 17th for female life expectancy, (Table 3). The country with the highest male life expectancy was Sweden at 79.4 years and the country with the highest female life expectancy was France at 85.0 years.
|Country||Life expectancy||Country ranking||Life expectancy||Country ranking|
|Germany||77.8||9 (Joint)||82.8||11 (Joint)|
|Greece||77.8||9 (Joint)||82.7||13 (Joint)|
|Malta||77.8||9 (Joint)||82.7||13 (Joint)|
|The Netherlands||78.7||3 (Joint)||82.9||10|
|Romania||69.8||24 (Joint)||77.4||26 (Joint)|
|The United Kingdom||78.1||6 (Joint)||82.1||17|
Data from the UK is from 2008-10; Italy figure is 2008.
The difference between male and female life expectancy across the EU-27 varies greatly. Gender differentials in 2009 were largest in the Baltic States (Latvia 9.9 years, Estonia 10.4 years and Lithuania 11.2 years). The country with the smallest gap in male and female life expectancy (4.1 years) was the United Kingdom.
Life expectancy for other countries available from the individual National Statistics Institutes:
Health expectancies add a dimension of the quality of life expectancy, providing a summary measure of the time spent in favourable and unfavourable health states. The ONS publishes two types of health expectancy; healthy life expectancy (HLE) defined as the number of years an individual can expect to spend in very good or good general health, and disability-free life expectancy (DFLE), defined as the number of years an individual can expect to spend free from a limiting chronic illness or disability. They provide a useful guide in the assessment of healthy ageing.
|Life expectancy||Healthy life expectancy||Disability-free life expectancy||Life expectancy||Healthy life expectancy||Disability-free life expectancy|
|At age 65||17.6||9.9||10.2||20.2||11.5||11.2|
The most recent healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy figures for the UK are for the period 2007-09, (Table 4). These show that, as for life expectancy, HLE and DFLE are higher for females than males at birth and at age 65. However, the gap between male and female LE is larger than the gender gap in HLE and in DFLE at both birth and age 65. As a result, the proportion of life spent in very good or good general health (HLE), or free from chronic limiting illness or disability (DFLE), tends to be greater for males than for females.
As a result of increases in the number and proportion of older people, the median age of the UK population is increasing6. Over the past 25 years the median age increased from 35 years in 1985 to 39.7 years in 2010. It is projected to continue to increase over the next 25 years, rising to 42 by 2035.
However, the age profile of the UK population varies considerably geographically. In 2010 West Somerset had the highest median age in the UK, at 52.7 years, with the next highest North Norfolk at 51.5 years. Other areas with high median ages were located on the south coast of England and included Christchurch, Rother and East Dorset, all with median ages just over 50 years. The coastal area of Berwick-upon-Tweed in the North East also had a high median age at 50.4 years.
Oxford, Manchester, Cambridge and Nottingham had the lowest median ages in 2010, at 29.2, 29.4, 29.5 and 29.8 respectively. Southampton, Leicester and Norwich also ranked amongst the ten local authorities with the lowest median ages in the UK at around 32 years. Higher education institutions in these areas increase the population of young adults, reducing the average age.
Many inner London boroughs also have low median ages, reflecting relatively high proportions of young adults in their populations and low proportions of older adults. The ten local areas with the smallest proportions of their populations aged 65 and above (with less than ten per cent in this age group) in 2010 were all inner London boroughs; Tower Hamlets had the smallest percentage of people aged 65 and over (7 per cent)
During the year ending June 2010, London had the highest net internal out-migration of people aged 65 and over of all English regions but the highest net internal in-migration of people aged 20-29.
The ten areas with the highest percentages of people aged 65 and over were all located on the east or south coast, reflecting a tendency for people to retire to these areas.
More information on population ageing at a local level is readily accessible using the ONS Ageing in the UK mapping tool.
Subnational population projections for the constituent countries of the UK:
Older women are more likely than older men to live alone and the percentage increases with advancing age. In 2009 in Great Britain, 32 per cent of women aged 65-74 lived alone compared to 22 per cent of men in this age group; for those aged 75 and over the proportion living alone increases to 60 per cent for women compared to 36 per cent for men.
In 2009, 73 per cent of older people households in the UK (where the household reference person was someone aged 65 or over) were owner occupied and of these the vast majority owned their homes outright, with only 6 per cent overall being bought with a mortgage or loan. Within the 65 and over age group, there is a decrease in owner occupation with age: 76 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 owned their own homes compared to 65 per cent of those aged 85 and over.
The percentage of older people households living in rented accommodation increases with age. In 2009, 19 per cent for those aged 65-74 were in social rented accommodation compared to 26 per cent for those aged 85 and over. Relatively small proportions of people aged 65 and over live in privately rented accommodation; however, this also increases with age, from 5 per cent for those aged 65-74 to 8 per cent for those aged 85 and over.
The number and proportion of older people in the labour force has increased over the last fifteen years. In May to July 1996, 65.9 per cent of men and 49.5 per cent of women aged 50-64 were employed; by May to July 2011 this had risen to 70.7 per cent and 59.4 per cent respectively.
The employment rate of men and women aged 65 and over also increased over this period (Figure 6). In May to July 1996, 7.3 per cent of men and 3.0 per cent of women in this age group were employed; by May to July 2011 this had risen to 11.6 per cent and 6.2 per cent respectively. In all there were a total of 862,000 persons aged 65 and over in employment, comprising 3 per cent of all persons aged 16 and over in employment.
In the UK average gross pensioner incomes increased by 50 per cent in real terms between 1996/97 and 2009/10, ahead of the growth in average earnings.
In 2009/10, pensioner couples7 received an average gross income of £607 per week, single male pensioners received £320 per week and single female pensioners £274. The largest source of income for pensioners is 'benefit income', which includes state pension income and benefits. Occupational pensions are also a significant source of income.
Average incomes conceal considerable variations between poorer and richer pensioners. When incomes are ranked and divided into five equal groups (quintiles), pensioner couples in the highest quintile in 2007-10 received a median net income 3.8 times that of those in the lowest income quintile. Single pensioners in the highest quintile received a median net income 3.1 times that of those in the lowest quintile.
On average, older pensioners have lower incomes than younger pensioners and male pensioners have higher incomes than female pensioners. In 2009/10 couples where the household head was aged 75 or over had an average gross income of £491 a week compared with £653 for those with a household head aged under 75; single male pensioners aged 75 and over had an average gross income of £315 per week compared to £325 per week for single male pensioners aged under 75; and single female pensioners aged 75 and over had an average gross income of £255 per week compared to £297 per week for single female pensioners aged under 75.
Despite increases in pensioner incomes over the last fifteen years, in 2009/10, the incomes of an estimated 1.8 million pensioners in the UK (16 percent) fell below the most commonly used official measure of relative poverty (less than 60 per cent of equivalised8 contemporary median income after housing costs). Two-thirds of these pensioners were women.
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