This article is based on a report from the European Commission named “The 2015 Ageing Report”. While this report has gone unnoticed, it contains key points that are essential to the future of the European Union. The blog www.activageproject.eu tries to gather some of these key points, focusing on Active and Healthy Ageing, to make them more easily understandable to our readers.
The EU population will reach a maximum in 2050, where it will start to drop. The EU population is expected to increase from the current 507 million up to 560 million in 2050, and will thereafter decrease slowly to 523 million inhabitants by 2060. The future population projections are based on different drivers; namely: the mortality rate, the fertility rate and the net migration rate. Only the countries with the highest levels of net migration will continue to increase their population.
2. Population Ageing Is a Global Phenomenon (Old-Age Dependency Ratio)
Population ageing is challenging outside Europe as well. While Europe is currently the oldest continent (having the highest “Old-age dependency ratio” – persons over 65 compared to active population), it will be surpassed by Latin America by 2100. Population ageing is drastic in some other world regions as well, where “old-age dependency ratios” higher than those in the EU will be reached in the coming years. The situation is even worse in China, where there will be one person over 65 years old per each working-age individual by 2100, reaching Europe’s levels. This ratio will increase to 70% in Japan!
China, representing almost 20% of the world population in 2010, will drop its share to 13% in 2060.
3. Does Age Impact Healthcare Costs?
Yes, and no. Let me clarify further. Mortality has decreased in all age ranges in the past years, at the expense of a higher morbidity and an increased number of life years with chronic diseases. Nonetheless, if we managed to link a higher longevity with an increase in the years of healthy life, then global ageing would not necessarily involve higher healthcare costs. In addition, it must be considered that healthcare costs are not impacted by age alone. Healthcare costs boost greatly during the years previous to the death, no matter the age range. Keeping individuals healthy and far from hospitals is the key. It should not to be forgotten that another important driver in any society health standards is the social and economic status.
4. How Does Healthcare Innovation Impact Healthcare Costs?
Healthcare innovations developed in the past years have expanded the access to life-saving therapies. Therefore, additional costs arise both from treating diseases that were formerly untreatable and from saving lives at the expense of longer periods of morbidity, especially in the advanced age. However, even if this has been the situation in the past (some studies suggest that medical technology explains 27 to 48% of the growth in healthcare costs from 1960 – Smith et al. 2009), it does not mean that a well-focused technological progress cannot save costs in the future. An increasingly supported approach is basing the public purchase of technology on value-based criteria (Value-Based Healthcare).
In summary, we face an encouraging future scenario where:
- The population will stop growing and will reach an “Old-age dependency ratio” – (persons over 65 compared to active population) of 50% in Europe and other regions by 2060.
- The population over 65 years will represent a prospect “market” of over 200 million people with specific needs and concerns only in Europe.
- Healthcare technology will face demographic and disease changes that will force the industry to adopt new business models and provide different products and services. Social and health care will need to adapt to the new necessities, leave hospitals and assess the impact of the services and technologies provided in order to receive a fair compensation for them.
- ICTs, and now the Internet of Things, have allowed us to conform to the new environment, to the progressive decrease of costs. ICTs and the IoT will help to develop services focused on preventing rather than treating, on active aging (through remote physical or mind training), post-acute disease rehabilitation, remote monitoring for chronic diseases, less social isolation, and so many other possibilities.
*We will discuss which of the AHA (Active and Healthy Ageing) services with a better outlook are in coming posts.
Jorge Posada, ACTIVAGE Project Manager