“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle
Global population is rapidly aging as fertility declines and life expectancy increases. According to United Nations Population Prospects, in 2015, 12 per cent of the global population were aged 60 or over. By 2050, this group will make up 22 per cent, while by 2100 old people will constitute about one third of the global population.
Fig. 1. Global population aging. Yellow figures represent the population aged 60 and older. Source of data: UN Population Prospects 2015 Revision.
The increasing burden of age-related diseases poses an unbearable load on the system of healthcare. While in previous decades humanity was mostly fighting with infectious diseases, the structure of morbidity has changed dramatically: now the leading causes of disability and mortality are represented by non communicable chronic diseases.
This trend is expected to increase in the coming years due to aging of the population. Taking into account the process of economic development, we can expect that the mortality structure in 2050 worldwide will resemble the one of high-income countries today.
Fig.2 The 10 leading causes of death in the world 2012. Top 10 causes of death in high income countries 2012. Source: WHO Media Centre.
This data provides clear understanding of what goals the global society should set to cope with the growing healthcare needs of aging population: it is necessary to undertake measures to help people remain healthy throughout the life course. But we cannot effectively prevent age-related diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, type 2 diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, if we don’t understand the processes of aging, and if we don’t develop new treatments to bring them under medical control.
We call all parties, the general public, academia, healthcare providers and decision makers, to join efforts to support aging and longevity research worldwide to ensure paradigm change to the preventative medicine enabling people to stay healthy for longer.
More useful sources to obtain accurate statistical information about population dynamics
UN Population Division (Population Prospects are revised every 2 years, last revision from 2015)
The World Bank (organization-facilitator of development to the present-day mandate of worldwide poverty alleviation)
Our World In Data (open and free online publication that shows how living conditions around the world are changing)