Editorials

The demographic timebomb

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7106.442 (Published 23 August 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:442

Will not explode in Britain for the foreseeable future

  1. Veena Soni Raleigh, Senior research fellowa
  1. a National Institute of Epidemiology, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 5YD

    The apocalyptic forecasts about the economic consequences of population aging are unduly alarmist. Despite increasing life expectancy, the proportion of the British population aged over 60 increased from 19% in 1971 to only 20.5% in 1994.1 This was a much smaller increase than that of preceding decades because of offsetting trends among the elderly population.

    The number and proportion of young elderly people (aged 60-69) actually fell during this period, whereas the number of older elderly people (over 75) increased by almost 50% from 4.7% of the total population to 6.8%. (However, these national aggregates conceal considerable variations in the age structures of local populations. For example, in parts of inner London 14% of the population is aged over 60, whereas in some local authorities in the south west and south east of England the proportion is up to 35%.2)

    Demographic events have demographic repercussions for several decades thereafter. The fall in …

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