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Population ageing: a global health crisis?
Population ageing: a global health crisis?

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2.1 Population ageing across the world

We have already established that population ageing is not about the numbers of older people in the population, but it is about the relative size of the older population to other age groups in society. You also saw in Activity 2 that because a population has the greater percentage of its population aged 60 years and older compared to another country, that does not mean it necessarily has a greater number of older people. Now consider the information on population ageing in Table 1.

Table 1 Percentages and numbers of population aged 60 years and older across the globe in 2013
RegionsThe percentage of population aged 60+ The absolute number of people aged 60+
More developed22.7%287 million
Less developed9.2%553 million
Least developed5.3%48 million
(adapted from United Nations, 2013)

You can see from this that the more developed regions of the world have the greatest percentage of their population aged 60 years and older (22.7%) by far. Yet, the less developed regions have a larger number of older people – nearly double that of more developed regions.

Your introduction to ageing societies and global ageing is now nearly complete! There is just one more term that needs clarifying, and that is ‘developed regions’. Regions and countries are classified differently by different organisations. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) refers to high-, middle- and low-income countries, whereas the United Nations uses a classification system based on whether countries are developed or developing. As we will be drawing on a range of sources in this course, we will be referring to ‘high-, middle- and low-income countries’ and ‘developed or developing countries’ depending on the sources of our information. You will also come across these differences when you are looking for information yourself.

Before exploring the implications of ageing societies for global health, we need to think about what we mean when we talk about ‘global health’ … so onto our next topic!