Global population is rapidly aging as fertility declines and life expectancy increases. According to United Nations Population Prospects, in 2015, 12% of the global population were aged 60 or over. By 2050, this group will make up 22%, 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 healthcare system. While in previous decades, humanity was mostly fighting infectious diseases, the structure of morbidity has changed dramatically: now, the leading causes of disability and mortality are represented by noncommunicable, chronic diseases.
This trend is expected to increase in the coming years due to population aging. Taking into account the process of economic development, we can expect that the worldwide mortality structure in 2050 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 shows the goals that global society should set to cope with the growing healthcare needs of an aging population, making it clear that it is necessary to undertake measures to help people remain healthy throughout the course of life.
However, we cannot effectively prevent age-related diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and 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 upon the general public, academia, healthcare providers, and decision makers around the world to support longevity and aging research to change the healthcare paradigm into one favoring preventative medicine, thus 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; the last revision is from 2015)
The World Bank (global development facilitator with the goal of alleviating poverty worldwide)
Our World In Data (open and free online publication that shows how living conditions around the world are changing)