Demographics of an Ageing Population

Population Numbers & Projections

  • The UK has an ageing population (ONS, 2018).

  • There are nearly 12 million (11,989,322) people aged 65 and above in the UK of which:

    o 5.4 million people are aged 75+, 1.6 million are aged 85+, Over 500,000 people are 90+ (579,776), 14,430 are centenarians (ONS, 2018f, 2018e).

  • The number of centenarians living in the UK has increased 85% in the past 15 years (ONS, 2018f).

  • By 2030 it is anticipated there will be over 21,000 centenarians (ONS, 2017b). 

  • By 2030, one in five people in the UK (21.8%) will be aged 65 or over, 6.8% will be aged 75+ and 3.2% will be aged 85+ (ONS, 2017b).

  • The 85+ age group is the fastest growing and is set to double to 3.2 million by mid-2041 and treble by 2066 (5.1 million; 7% of the UK population) (ONS, 2018k).

Life Expectancy 

  • Babies born in 2018 are (at birth) projected to have a period life expectancy of 79.9 years old (males) and 83.4 years old (females)(ONS, 2018k).

  • In 2017 life expectancy at age 65 was 20.9 years for women and 18.6 years for men (ONS, 2018l).

  • It is projected that 23.4% of male and 29.2% of female babies born in 2018 will survive to the age of 100 (ONS, 2018k).

  • Between 2011 and 2016 the UKs average annual life expectancy improvement was lower than the EU average, for both men and women (PHE, 2018a).

  • The causes of this slowdown are likely to be complex and are not yet clear; theories include austerity, health and care system integration challenges, and increased prevalence of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and dementia (The Kings Fund, 2018a).


In 50 years there are projected to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over – a population roughly equivalent to the size of London (ONS, 2018k).

Since the start of the 19th century, the UK has seen mortality rates declines and life expectancy increase (ONS, 2018).

Increases in life expectancy in the UK have stalled since 2011. Although a slowdown has been evident internationally, life expectancy in the UK is lower than many other comparable countries (ONS, 2018).


Healthy & Disability Free Life Expectancy

The number of years of life expected to be spent without a disability or in good health is commonly referred to as disability-free life expectancy or healthy life expectancy (ONS, 2018).

The likelihood of being disabled and / or experiencing multiple chronic and complex health

conditions increases with age (ONS, 2018k).

As life expectancy has increased, time spent in poor health has also increased (ONS, 2018)

Last updated May 2019


Gender & Ethnicity

  • Estimating Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) populations can be challenging as annual population estimates produced by the ONS do not include ethnicity. Consequently, the Census 2011 is the most recent and reliable data source (ONS, 2011, 2018g).

  • 8% of people aged 60+ in England and Wales are BME, compared to 14% of the total population (ONS, 2011, 2018g).

  • Among broad ethnic groups, the white ethnic group has the oldest median age (41 years old), while the mixed ethnic group has the youngest (18 years old) (ONS, 2011, 2018g).

  • However BME populations are progressively ageing alongside the white British population (Evandrou et al., 2016).

  • In 2017, 5.5% of people aged 65+ in England were single (never married or civil partnered), 60.0% were married or in a civil partnership, 10.5% were divorced and 24.1% were widowed (ONS, 2018m).

  • With increasing age, higher proportions of people are widowed; among those aged 60-64 3.9% of men and 7.9% of women are widowed whereas among those aged 85+ 35.9% of men and 76.5% of women are widowed (ONS, 2018m).



Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people

  • Data on the demographic composition of LGBT populations in the UK are limited (CPA, 2016).

  • Recent experimental statistics by the ONS reported that 2.1% of those aged 50+ (equating to around 260,000 individuals) identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (ONS, 2016).

  • This changing landscape illustrates the importance for understanding issues related to Life expectancy has risen more quickly than healthy life expectancy.

  • In England, healthy life expectancy at birth is 63.3 years for males and 63.9 for females (2014 to 2016) (PHE, 2018a).

  • Disability-free life years at age 65 years in England is 9.9 years (8.9 years for males and 9.8 years for females) (ONS, 2018i).
  • Females live on average 3.6 years longer than men (The Kings Fund, 2018b).
  • Women only have an additional 0.6 years of good health compared to men, therefore women live a smaller proportion of their lives in “good health” (The Kings Fund, 2018b).

Women increasingly outnumber men at older ages

Among those aged over 65, 55% are health and social care provision, policy and research in relation to ethnic minority elders (Bhui, Halvorsrud, & Nazroo, 2018).

Partnership Status

Unmarried people on average have poorer health and higher mortality risks than married people; with larger differences for men (Richmond & Roehner, 2017). NB: Gender differences are evident across a variety of topics related to ageing therefore for a broader context please see other sections of this factsheet.

Last updated May 2019

  • Having spent much of their early adult years in social, political and medical environments in which homosexuality was illegal or considered a mental illness, some older LGBT adults conceal or avoid disclosing their sexual identity for fear of discrimination (CPA, 2016).

  • Although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often grouped together, they are diverse and have varied and disparate needs (CPA, 2016).

  • LGB older adults are less likely to be married than their heterosexual peers, less likely to have children, and are more likely to live alone (Kim, Fredriksen-Goldsen, Bryan, & Muraco, 2017).

  • 3.8 million individuals over the age of 65 live alone, 58% of whom are over 75 (around 2.2 million individuals) (ONS, 2017a).

  • Older adults who live alone are more likely to visit their GP, with around a fifth (21%) of persons aged 65+ who live alone visiting their GPs at least once a month, compared to 14% of older persons who live with others (Dreyer et al., 2018).

  • Older adults who live alone are more likely to have multiple (defined here as 3 or more) long term conditions (50% compared to 42% of older adults who live with others) (Dreyer et al., 2018).

  • Older adults who live alone are more likely to have mental health conditions (1 in 4 among those who live alone vs 1 in 5 among those who live with others (Dreyer et al., 2018).


  • 6.5 million households in England are headed by someone aged 65 and over; equating to around one-third of all households (ONS, 2018j).

  • 78% of households headed by someone aged 65+ are owned. Of these older adult homeowners, just 6% are still paying a mortgage (Airey, 2018).

  • 16% of households headed by someone aged 65 or over socially rent, while 6% privately rent (Airey, 2018).

  • 64% of outright owner households are headed by a person aged 65+ (MHCLG, 2019).

  • 27% of households in the social rented sector are headed by a person aged 65 or over


Living Arrangements

LGBT people are known to face a number of barriers when accessing services, these can include: discrimination, inappropriate questions and curiosity. These barriers can prevent fair equal treatment in health and social care settings (GOV.UK, 2019).

LGBT individual who are from ethnic minority communities or who have disabilities can face additional inequalities (PHE, 2017).

LGBT people are at greater risk of common mental health problems such as depression,

anxiety and stress (PHE, 2017).

Older LGB adults have higher risk of disability, smoking, and increased alcohol consumption compared to older straight people (Cannon, Shukla, & Vanderbilt, 2017).

Older transgender adults are at higher risk of poor physical health, disability, depression, and perceived stress (Cannon et al., 2017).

Older women are more likely than older men to live alone (ONS, 2018i)

Older adults who live alone are more likely to attend accident and emergency (Dreyer, Steventon, Fisher, & Deeny, 2018).

(ONS, 2018).

88% of the growth in the number of households between 2016 and 2041 is projected to be in households headed by someone aged 65+

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