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This topic covers statistics on demography of population ageing at national and subnational levels and addresses various aspects about older people’s lives, including housing, living arrangements, economic activity status, health, income and expenditure, migration, lifestyles and quality of life.

Publications

Ageing in the UK Datasets
Department: Office for National Statistics
These data tables underlie the ‘Ageing in the UK’ interactive mapping tool. Using the tool helps bring these data alive, allowing you to analyse the age structure of the population at the local area level more easily. You can see how the population has aged over time and is projected to continue to age by selecting from a list of indicators of population ageing, such as median age, and animating the map. It is also possible to export jpegs of the maps you produce.
Carers' Statistics for Northern Ireland
Department: Health, Social Service and Public Safety (Northern Ireland)
Carers' Statistics for Northern Ireland presents quarterly figures at a regional and Health and Social Care Trust level for completed and declined carers' assessments, re-assessments and reviews.
Characteristics of Older People
Department: Office for National Statistics
Reports describing the characteristics of the older population in England and Wales
Decennial Life Tables
Department: Office for National Statistics
Graduated life tables which give statistics on national life expectancy for each constituent country of the UK. Published once every ten years.
Estimates of the Very Old (including centenarians)
Department: Office for National Statistics
Estimates of those aged 90 and over (including centenarians) by gender, single year of age (90-104) and by age groups (90-99), 100+ and 105+ for the UK, England and Wales (as a whole), Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Focus on Older People
Department: Office for National Statistics
Reports describing characteristics of people aged 50 and over living in the UK.
Historic and Projected Data from the Period and Cohort Life Tables
Department: Office for National Statistics
Historic and projected data from the period and cohort life tables including the expectation of life (ex) the probability of dying (qx) and the numbers surviving (lx). Data is provided by age and sex for the UK and its constituent countries.
Historic and projected mortality data from the UK life tables
Department: Office for National Statistics
Mortality data used in the calculation of historic and projected life tables. Following the publication of the period and cohort life expectancy tables, ONS prepares databases for the UK and each of the constituent countries. Published for the first time in this release are tables of historic and projected qx (probability of dying at each age) and lx values (numbers of people surviving at each age) for the UK, on a period and cohort basis for each year 1951 to 2060.
Interim Life Tables
Department: Office for National Statistics
Interim life tables, which are produced annually for the UK and its constituent countries, give statistics on period life expectancy by age and sex.
Key Population and Vital Statistics
Department: Office for National Statistics
Provides data on resident population, births, maternities, deaths, mortality and migration for local administrative areas and health areas throughout the UK.
Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas in England and Wales
Department: Office for National Statistics
Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas in England and Wales
Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas in the United Kingdom
Department: Office for National Statistics
Life expectancy at birth results for health and local authorities in the United Kingdom.
Lifetime Opportunities Monitoring Framework
Department: Office of the First and Deputy First Minister
This report presents a range of statistical targets and indicators in support of the Northern Ireland Executive’s anti poverty and social inclusion strategy ‘Lifetime Opportunities'. The monitoring framework is structured around 3 ‘layers’: • Child poverty targets • Poverty and social inclusion indicators • Public service agreement targets Analyses of statistics are on a lifecycle basis and are benchmarked against other jurisdictions when possible
National Life Tables
Department: Office for National Statistics
National life tables, which are produced annually for the UK and its constituent countries, give statistics on period life expectancy by age and sex.
Older Workers in the Labour Market
Department: Office for National Statistics
Findings on the skill level of jobs held by workers who are not born in the UK including information on the changes in the number of non-UK born workers in the UK over the decade between 2001 and 2010.
Older people divorcing
Department: Office for National Statistics
Divorces amongst those aged 60 and over. Includes divorce rates, how long marriages have lasted, and whether divorces are granted to husbands or wives.
Period and cohort life expectancy tables
Department: Office for National Statistics
Life expectancies on a period and cohort basis. Data is provided by age and sex from 1981 to 2056 for the UK and its constituent countries.
Population Estimates of the Very Elderly
Department: Office for National Statistics
Population of the very elderly (including centenarians) by gender, single year of age (90 to 104) and by age groups (90-99, 100+ and 105+) for the UK and England & Wales.
Population Trends
Department: Office for National Statistics
Population and demographic information. It contains commentary on the latest findings and topical articles on relevant subjects.

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Overview

The population of the UK is growing in size and becoming increasingly older. Ageing refers both to the ageing of the population and the increasing number of people reaching older age.  

Over the period 1985-2012 the number of people aged 65 and over in the UK increased by 26 per cent to 10.8 million; in 2012, 17 per cent of the population were aged 65 and over. The number of people aged 85 and over more than doubled over the same period to 1.4 million and the percentage aged under 16 fell from 21 per cent to 19 per cent. 

In 2012 the median age for women (41 years) was higher than for men (39 years).This is because, on average, women live longer than men. However, the gender gap in median ages has narrowed by a year since 1985. 

Population ageing will continue for the next few decades. By 2037 the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to be 2.5 times larger than in 2012, reaching 3.6 million and accounting for 5 per cent of the total population. The population aged 65 and over will account for 24 per cent of the total population in 2037, while the proportion of the population aged between 16 and 64 is due to fall from 64 per cent to 58 per cent. 

Population ageing brings potential benefits but also challenges to society. Appropriate and up to date statistics on ageing are needed to inform policy makers and clarify requirements for service delivery. Key policy areas are health and social care, the ageing of the workforce and pensions, housing and transport. The growth of ethnic minorities amongst the older population may also have policy implications in the future. 

This web page provides a gateway for users to up to date statistics on population ageing and ageing-related topics. 

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Technical Data

A number of different sources are used to produce statistics on population ageing and ageing-related topics: the Census, Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (ONS-LS), mid-year population estimates, national population projections, migration statistics and data from many government surveys, including the Labour Force Survey (LFS), Annual Population Survey (APS) and the English Housing Survey (EHS). Longitudinal data sources such as the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) are also valuable for information on ageing.   

Census: the most authoritative data source for estimating the population. The Census provides essential information at national and subnational levels for government, business, and the community. It also provides the base for the mid-year population estimates. The Census in the UK is conducted every ten years. The Office for National Statistics conducts the Census for England and Wales. The Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency conducts the Census in Northen Ireland and the General Register Office for Scotland conducts the Census in Scotland. 

ONS-LS: contains linked census and vital event data for 1 per cent of the population of England and Wales. Information from the 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 Censuses is linked with life events information (these are members’ birth, death and cancer registration). Sample selection is based on birth dates, using four dates (day and month) to create a sample that is representative of the population of England and Wales. 

Mid-year population estimates, Office for National Statistics: the estimated resident population on 30 June of the reference year. Estimates are based on the previous mid-year estimate aged on and adjusted for births, deaths, migration and changes in mobile subgroups in the year to 30 June. They are produced annually. 

National population projections, Office for National Statistics: an indication of the future population founded on trend-based assumptions of fertility, mortality and migration. National population projections are produced for the UK, its constituent countries, England and Wales (combined) and Great Britain. These projections are usually produced every two years. 

General Lifestyle Survey, Office for National Statistics: an interdepartmental multi-purpose continuous survey carried out by ONS collecting information on a range of topics from people living in private households in Great Britain. The survey has run continuously since 1971, except for breaks in 1997/8 (when the survey was reviewed) and 1999/2000 when the survey was re-developed. From 2014/2015 General Lifestyle Survey outputs will be reduced to the following topics: smoking, drinking and health. 

Labour Force Survey (LFS), Office for National Statistics: a survey of households living at private addresses (and in NHS accommodation) in the UK. Its main purpose is to provide information on the UK labour market that can then be used to develop, manage, evaluate and report on labour market policies.

Annual Population Survey, Office for National Statistics: combines results from the LFS and the English, Welsh and Scottish Labour Force Survey boosts. APS datasets are produced quarterly with each dataset containing 12 months of data. 

Survey of English Housing, Department for Communities and Local Government: a continuous household survey that collects information from nearly 20,000 households each year about the characteristics of their housing and their attitudes to housing and related issues. In April 2008, the Survey of English Housing (SEH) merged with the English House Condition Survey (EHCS) to form the new English Housing Survey (EHS). 

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA): a study of people aged 50 and over and their partners, living in private households in England. Data are collected every two years since 2002 and cover a full range of topics necessary to understand the economic, social, psychological and health elements of the ageing process. ELSA is a collaboration of a number of institutions; University College London, Institute of Fiscal Studies, National Centre for Social Research, University of Manchester. It is part funded by a consortium of government departments. 

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Glossary

  • Ageing

    The term ageing covers both the ageing of the population and the increasing number of people reaching older age. Population ageing is a result of the demographic transition that has been occurring in most western societies since the late 18th century. Over the past 150 years, there have been falls in both the birth and death rates. These have resulted in changes in the size of the cohorts that are becoming older and changes in the chances of survival into later life. Decreases in mortality during the 20th century, combined with declines in fertility rates, have resulted in the increasingly aged populations of today.

  • Cohort

    A group of people who are observed over time, usually defined by date of birth or date of attaining some other status. For example, a sample of people born in 1965 would form a birth cohort.

  • Cohort life expectancy

    This considers how long people would live on average dependent on how mortality rates have changed, or are projected to change, throughout their lifespan. For example, cohort life expectancy at age 0 in 2006 uses the mortality rate of newborns in 2006, of one-year-olds in 2007, of two-year-olds in 2008 and so on. This means cohort life expectancy is regarded as more appropriate than period life expectancy as an indicator of how long, on average, people of a given age could expect to live. As mortality rates are projected to continue falling over the coming decades, current cohort life expectancies are longer than their period equivalents.

  • Dependants

    Children aged under 16 years and individuals of state pension age and over.

  • Dependency ratio

    The number of dependants in a population per thousand persons of working age.

  • Disability-free life expectancy

    The average amount of time that people can expect to live free from any limiting chronic illness or disability. The Office for National Statistics produces period measures: this means they indicate disability-free life expectancy assuming age-based mortality and disability rates remain constant. They do not indicate how long people might actually remain free of disability, as the disability rates at any given age are likely to change in future.

  • Drivers of ageing

    The relative contributions of the demographic components to the structural changes in the population. Estimating the relative contributions of these different factors is complex. Preliminary work done by the Office for National Statistics shows that the effect of fertility has been to dampen the ageing of the population, even though fertility has been below replacement level since 1972. This reflects population momentum resulting from high fertility of the 1960s and the relatively large number of births resulting from the echo of the 1960s baby boom in the 1990s. The effect of migration has been broadly neutral. Therefore the main driver of ageing in recent decades has been improving mortality rates.

  • Economic activity

    Defined as the sum of people who are in employment and unemployment, using the International Labour Organization (ILO) definition. The opposite of economic activity is economic inactivity, which refers to those people who are not in employment and are either not looking for work or are not available to start. The sum of the economically active and the economically inactive makes up the entire population. Rates of employment, unemployment, economic activity and inactivity can be presented for any population group and are the percentage of that group who have that particular labour market status.

  • Economic inactivity

    The Labour Force Survey (LFS) definition of inactivity refers to people who are neither in employment nor unemployed. This includes those who want a job but have not been seeking work in the last four weeks, those who want a job and are seeking work but are not available to start work, and those who do not want a job. In the LFS, economic inactivity rate is given by the number of economically inactive people as a percentage of the relevant population.

  • Healthy life expectancy

    The average number of years an individual can expect to live in very good or good general health. The Office for National Statistics produces period measures: this means they indicate healthy life expectancy assuming age-based mortality rates and age-based rates of very good/ good health remain constant. They do not indicate how long people might actually remain healthy, as the very good/ good health rates at any given age are likely to change in future.

  • Household

    A household comprises one person or a group of people who have the accommodation as their only or main residence and (for a group): share the living accommodation, that is a living room or sitting room, or share meals together or have common housekeeping.

  • Household reference person (HRP)

    From 2001-02, the concept of household reference person was adopted on all government-sponsored surveys, in place of head of household. The household reference person is the household member who owns the accommodation; or is legally responsible for the rent; or occupies the accommodation as reward of their employment, or through some relationship to its owner who is not a member of the household. If there are joint householders, the one with the highest income is the household reference person. If their income is the same, then the eldest one is the household reference person.

  • Life expectancy

    The average amount of time people can expect to live. This can be time from birth, or remaining time from any particular age. Please see respective glossary entries for more details of different measures of life expectancy.

  • Life table

    A table showing death rates and life expectancy for each year of age (or an age group).

  • Mean

    A common measure of the average. The values are summed and then divided by the total number of observations.

  • Median

    Statistical term for the value for which half the data are above and half are below. An alternative measure of the average to the mean.  

  • Mortality

    The number of deaths that occurred in a population in a given period.

  • Mortality rate

    The usual practice in the Office for National Statistics publications is to calculate age-standardised mortality rates per 100,000 population, standardised to the European Standard Population. Age-standardised rates are used to allow comparison between populations which may contain different proportions of people of different ages.

  • Old age

    The most commonly used definition of old age throughout the 20th century and today is the age at which a person becomes entitled to receive state pension benefits. Until recently this tended to be 60 or 65 in most European countries.

  • Old age support ratio

    Defined as the number of people of working age to the number of people of State Pension Age and over.

  • Older people households

    Households where the household reference person (see definition) is someone aged 50 and over.

  • Oldest old

    The term oldest old is most commonly used to define people who are aged 85 and over.

  • Pensionable age population

    Individuals of state pension age and above. For men the current State Pension age is 65. For women, the current State Pension age is increasing from 60 to 65 from April 2010. Under the Pensions Act 2011 women's State Pension age will reach 65 by November 2018. From December 2018 the State Pension age for both men and women will start to increase to reach 66 in October 2020. The current law also provides for State Pension age to increase to 67 between 2034 and 2036 and 68 between 2044 and 2046 for both men and women. In the 2011 Autumn statement the chancellor announced that the Government intends to bring forward the increase in state pension age to 67, to be phased in between 2026 and 2028.

  • Period life expectancy

    The average number of years someone would be expected to live based on the age-specific mortality rates for the period and area in which they reside. This measure makes no allowance for any later actual or projected changes in mortality. In practice, mortality rates are likely to change in the future and people may live in other areas for at least some part of their lives. Therefore, period life expectancy does not give the number of years someone could actually expect to live.

  • Retirement

    There is no widely agreed definition of retirement. Generally, it refers to someone who used to be in employment and has withdrawn from the labour market but there is no agreement on whether people should only be considered to be retired if their exit from the labour market is permanent, or if they are in receipt of a pension, or other factors.

  • State Pension Age (SPA)

    The age at which an individual can claim their state pension, although people can choose to defer their pension. For men the current State Pension age is 65. For women, the current State Pension age is increasing from 60 to 65 from April 2010. Under the Pensions Act 2011 women's State Pension age will reach 65 by November 2018. From December 2018 the State Pension age for both men and women will start to increase to reach 66 in October 2020. The current law also provides for State Pension age to increase to 67 between 2034 and 2036 and 68 between 2044 and 2046 for both men and women. In the 2011 Autumn statement the chancellor announced that the Government intends to bring forward the increase in state pension age to 67, to be phased in between 2026 and 2028.

  • Support ratio

    The number of persons of working age per persons of dependant age.

  • Working age population

    Individuals aged 16 to below SPA

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Demographic Analysis Unit

Email: ageing@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)1329 444683

Room 2300 Office for National Statistics Segensworth Road Titchfield Fareham PO15 5RR

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