Burden of ageing populations may not be so heavy, study

Jun 13, 2005

Many analysts have argued that the ageing populations of developing nations represent an economic time bomb for future generations who will have to work to support them. But these fears may not necessarily be justified, according to a study in last week's Nature.

Current estimates of a population's age are based on the average number of years that people have been alive. But more important is the number of years they have left to live, point out Warren Sanderson and Sergei Scherbov. So they have redefined the average age by taking into account how life expectancy will change. The system uses 2000 as a reference year, so if the remaining life expectancy of a 30-year-old in 2000 is 50 years, say, and that of a 40-year-old in 2050 is also 50 years, then the future 40-year-old will have a 'standardized' age of 30.

Using this method throws up some interesting predictions, as populations can effectively become 'younger' through increases in life expectancy, as well as through increased birth rates. Sanderson and Scherbov estimate how the proportion of elderly dependents in a society will change over the twenty-first century for Japan, Germany and the United States - three countries thought to be most at risk from ageing. In fact, the researchers argue, the economic burden of elderly people should begin to decline by the end of the century.

More details: "Average remaining lifetimes can increase as human populations age" Nature 435, 811-813 (9 June 2005)

Explore further: Small business owners not always worried about being treated fairly, researcher finds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Aging research goes to the dogs

Apr 15, 2014

From ancient alchemical quests to modern biological research, efforts to understand and combat human aging have borne few fruits. Now Cornell scientists aim to bridge the gap between lab research and aging's ...

Debating the future of infrastructure

Apr 15, 2014

Cities face much of the burden of preparing for global changes—whether climate shocks, rapid population growth, or population decline, when industries relocate. Beneath every skyline, a city's leaders and ...

Guns aren't the only things killing cops

Apr 11, 2014

The public does not realize—in fact, police themselves may not realize—that the dangers police officers are exposed to on a daily basis are far worse than anything on "Law and Order."

The science of anatomy is undergoing a revival

Apr 10, 2014

Only two decades ago, when I was starting my PhD studies at the University of California in Berkeley, there was talk about the death of anatomy as a research subject. That hasn't happened. Instead the science ...

Recommended for you

Bloody souvenir not from decapitated French king: DNA

4 hours ago

Two centuries after the French people beheaded King Louis XVI and dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, DNA analysis has thrown new doubt on the authenticity of one such rag kept as a morbid souvenir.

Residents of 'boom time' suburbs face unsustainable commutes

6 hours ago

People living in the 'boom time' suburbs of Dublin are more likely to endure unsustainable commutes to work than those living in older accommodation. Research shows that people living in newly constructed housing in the Greater ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...