Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The plus side of population aging


An aging society will have numerous benefits, according to new research from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and researchers in Germany and the United States.

Around the world, people are living longer and having fewer children, leading to a population that is older, on average, than in the past. On average, life expectancy in developed countries has risen at a pace of three months per year, and fertility has fallen below replacement rate in the majority of Europe and other developed countries.

Most academic discussion of this trend has so far focused on potential problems it creates, including challenges to pension systems, economic growth, and healthcare costs.
But according to a new study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, population aging and the compositional changes that go along with it—such as increasing education levels—may turn out to have many positive impacts for society.

“In order to give a more complete picture of population aging, it is necessary to include both positive and negative effects of population aging,” says IIASA researcher Elke Loichinger, who wrote the article in collaboration with researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Rostock, Germany, and the University of Washington.

The researchers chose to use Germany as a case study because the country is at an advanced stage of the demographic transition, with a current fertility rate of around 1.4 and the second oldest average population in the world (median age 44.3 years). They identified five areas in which population aging could bring net benefits, when considered in combination with other demographic factors:

• Increased productivity: While population aging will likely lead to a decline in the labor force, expected increases in workers’ education levels can partly compensate for this decline through higher productivity.
• Aging could be good for the environment: Changes in the age structure and a declining population size are associated with reduced consumption of energy-intensive goods and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
• Sharing wealth with the younger generations: As life expectancy increases, people would inherit, on average, at older ages and potentially use some of the inheritance to either fund their retirement or help their children financially as they become adults. Moreover, as families have fewer children, inheritance will be split between fewer people, so that, all else being constant, individuals would receive more on average.
• Health: As people live longer, they also stay healthier longer. The results project that the average German man in 2050 will spend 80% of his lifetime in good health, compared to 63% today.
• Quality of life: The study suggests that the relationship between leisure, work, and housework will change in the future, with leisure time increasing on average.

While the study focused on Germany, the researchers say that the findings are applicable across many aging societies. Loichinger says, “The particular context of another country will determine the degree of their relevance. For example, an increase in educational attainment levels can be found almost universally around the globe, and the finding that the elderly belonging to subsequent cohorts have better health has also been shown in other contexts. Depending on a country’s stage in the demographic transition process, the results from the analyses of bequests and CO2 emissions are also generalizable.”

The study provides a new perspective at a time when population aging is spreading to many countries around the world. Loichinger says, “The extent of population aging that is going on and expected is beyond what has ever been observed before. Since there is no precedent to this development, there is also no blueprint how to deal with it.”

Kluge F, Zagheni E, Loichinger E, Vogt T. 2014. The advantages of demographic change after the wave: Fewer and older but healthier, greener, and more productive? PLOS ONE. 24 September 2014

Elke Loichinger
Guest Research Scholar
World Population
+43(0) 2236 807 486

Katherine Leitzell
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316

About IIASA:
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe.

Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>