Editorials

Aging: a subject that must be at the top of world agendas

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7115.1029 (Published 25 October 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1029

The aging of populations demands major changes across society and health care

  1. Sally Greengross, Chairwoman, Age Concern,
  2. Elaine Murphy, Chairwoman,
  3. Lois Quam, Chief executive officer,
  4. Paula Rochon, Assistant professor of medicine,
  5. Richard Smith, Editor, BMJ Editors
  1. City and Hackney Community Services NHS Trust, London
  2. AARP/United Division, United Health Care, Minneapolis
  3. Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, North York, Ontario

    Today we join some 100 other medical journals from over 30 countries in publishing an issue devoted to aging. Our aims are to alert readers, the public, and governments to the radical changes being created across the world by the aging of populations and to contribute a substantial body of research and information on all aspects of aging. Aging emerged as the favoured subject for the global theme issue after a two stage voting process among editors of medical journals. Research has shown that readers also rank it as the top issue. One reason that aging emerged in first place is that it affects everything—cells, physiological systems, clinical medicine, society, economics, ethics. This theme issue—in the tradition of the BMJ—tries to reflect that broad impact.

    Aging has become an important issue because of dramatic changes in life expectancy. Only one in six Britains born 150 years ago reached 75, whereas two thirds of those born today will. People over 60 currently constitute a fifth of the British population but will be a third by 2030. Those aged over 80 are the fasting growing section of the population. In 1951 Britain had 300 people aged over 100; by 2031 it will have 34 000. Other developed countries have seen the same growth in numbers of elderly people, while countries that have more recently become industrialised are going through a much more rapid transition in their age structure (p 1037). Yet—because most of the population lives there—60% of people over 60 are in the developing world, and it will be …

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