An Ageing Population – Why Does it Matter?

I recently came across an interesting article from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which included statistics and projections to illustrate how the UK’s population is ageing and why this might matter to individuals and the wider society, highlighting both the opportunities and challenges for the economy and services at national and local levels.1 This sent me down the rabbit hole of researching the ageing population and how this impacts us all.

The latest ONS projections show that in 50 years, there will likely be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 and over in the UK – a population roughly the size of London. It is thought that a newborn male and newborn female in the UK today can expect to live for 87.3 years and 90.2 years, respectively. Furthermore, 13.6% of newborn boys and 19% of newborn girls are projected to live to at least a phenomenal 100 years old.2

What are the implications of living longer on health and healthcare?

The ONS states that at age 65, individuals can expect to spend around half their remaining life expectancy in good health. However, the likelihood of experiencing multiple chronic and complex health conditions increases with age. As life expectancy rises, sadly, so does the amount of time spent in poor health.

An individual with a chronic condition will have persistent challenges, requiring ongoing management for years or even decades. An individual with multiple chronic conditions will likely have more complex management needs. Of those aged 60 to 64, it is believed that 29% have two or more chronic conditions; for those aged 75 and over, this rises to almost 50%.3

Understandably, healthcare needs increase with age, with healthcare costs increasing steeply from around age 65. Evidence shows hospital admissions have also increased year-on-year since 2007, with a steeper increase in admissions for those 66 and over.

An ageing population has contributed to rising health and social care costs through declining mortality rates and higher life expectancies.

What are the implications of living longer on psychosocial factors and social care?

Social care needs, formal or informal, also increase with age as function and independence are affected by the challenges the older person can face. It is believed that one in five men and women aged between 75 and 84 have at least some problems washing or dressing independently; this rises to 34% of men and 42% of women aged 85 and over.

Another critical factor that can often be overlooked is overall personal well-being. This can include an individual’s levels of happiness, satisfaction, and feelings of their life being worthwhile. Research has shown that well-being ratings across all three categories fall amongst the oldest age groups (those over 75).4 The steepest fall is observed in the category of feelings of their life being worthwhile, particularly the activities they can do in life. This correlates strongly to ageing having an impact on functional ability and engagement. Those aged 80 and over are also twice as likely to report feelings of loneliness, which has a strong relationship with low personal well-being ratings.5

Is there a link between health and social?

Simply put, personal factors such as poor health AND increased social needs will undoubtedly impact overall quality of life. Self-reported health has one of the strongest associations with all measures of personal well-being – individuals reporting higher well-being generally say better health.4

It is thought that the direction of the relationship between personal well-being and health could be either way; it is credible that ensuring interventions directed at improving social factors will improve health outcomes.

The broader determinants of health are a diverse range of social, economic, and environmental factors influencing individuals’ outcomes.6 Loneliness and social isolation, for example, are twice as harmful as obesity to physical and mental health.7 Additionally, among older individuals, evidence consistently indicates an association between life satisfaction, self-rated general health, mental health, functional limitations, and quality of life.8

Remember, we must apply a holistic approach to any intervention, especially postural care. Management of the individual and their support network has the potential to improve outcomes for all connected whilst even being preventative – indeed, a meaningful objective for an ageing population.9

Can we improve an ageing population’s health and social outcomes?

As Health & Social Care Professionals specialising in specialist seating, we can make a difference! Remember, optimum postural care in sitting is fundamental to health, well-being, and quality of life. To further understand how we can play our part as postural care advocates in supporting an ageing population, both the individuals at the centre and their support network, whilst ensuring cost-effectiveness for the wider society, get in touch with us to find out how you can watch our recent live webinar: Postural Challenges of an Ageing Population. We reviewed what can happen to movement and posture as we age, explored the common postural challenges, and introduced the seating solutions that can help.

References:

  1. Office for National Statistics (2018) Living longer: how our population is changing and why it matters Available from:ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/ageing/articles/livinglongerhowourpopulationischangingandwhyitmatters/2018-08-13
  2. Office for National Statistics (2022) Past and projected period and cohort life tables: 2020-based, UK, 1981 to 2070 Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/bulletins/pastandprojecteddatafromtheperiodandcohortlifetables/2020baseduk1981to2070
  3. NHS Digital (2017) Health Survey for England Available from: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-for-england/health-survey-for-england-2016
  4. Office for National Statistics (2016) Measuring National Wellbeing: At what age is Personal Wellbeing the highest? Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/atwhatageispersonalwellbeingthehighest
  5. Office for National Statistics (2015) Measuring National Wellbeing: Insights into Loneliness, Older People and Wellbeing Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/2015-10-01
  6. Public Health England (2018) Chapter 6: wider determinants of health Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-profile-for-england-2018/chapter-6-wider-determinants-of-health
  7. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D (2015) Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review Perspectives on Psychological Science 10(2):227-237
  8. Gondek D, Ning K, Ploubidis GB, Nasim B, Goodman A (2018) The impact of health on economic and social outcomes in the United Kingdom: A scoping literature review PLoS One 13(12)
  9. Umberson D, Montez JK (2010) Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy J Health Soc Behav 51(Suppl): S54-66

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