Our ageing population

How ageing affects health and care need in England, December 2021

Ann Raymond, Nuha Bazeer, Claudia Barclay, Holly Krelle, Omar Idriss, Charles Tallack, Elaine Kelly

Key points
  • England’s population is ageing. In the next 25 years, the number of people older than 85 will double to 2.6 million. An ageing population might lead to the presumption that there will be an increased need for health and social care services. But the reality is more complicated.
  • The proportion of older people who need social care support at any given age has fallen. This means a higher proportion of older people are now able to live independent lives. Although demand is still increasing overall, this fall in the proportion of older people needing social care has counterbalanced some of the increase driven by our ageing population.
  • However the proportion of older people aged above 75 with a long-term condition has risen, and their needs are likely to become more complex, leading to increased demand for NHS services.
  • These findings suggest that older people are living with an increased number of long-term conditions, typically managed through the NHS, without on average needing more support with social care. But those who do have social care needs may also be managing an increased number of long-term conditions.  
  • As government seeks to reform adult social care, policymakers need to be aware of the complexities involved in predicting future demand – rather than assuming social care demand will increase in correlation with increased prevalence of long-term health conditions.

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The Health Foundation Source: Our ageing population – The Health Foundation

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