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The impact of ageing on Europe

A rapidly ageing population could have wildly different impacts on our society. In-depth studies across the European continent have begun to help unravel the consequences of this phenomenon.
The impact of ageing on Europe
By 2025, almost 30 % of Europe's population will be over 60 years old, a demographic reality that is expected to produce profound political and social changes. No one knows, however, if longer-living Europeans will lead more active lives in their older age (compression of morbidity) or will increasingly suffer from ill health (expansion of morbidity).

The EU-funded project 'Courage in Europe - Collaborative research on ageing in Europe' (COURAGE IN EUROPE) investigated ageing in Spain, Poland and Finland. It mapped median age, life expectancy and gender ratio in these three very different countries, factoring in the varying degrees of social security, family support, disability and institutionalisation.

Through its studies, the project aimed to develop effective tools to measure key health and health-related outcomes in the general population. It worked on validating these assessment instruments and significantly improving innovation in ageing survey methodology. To achieve this, the project team incorporated data on social networks and social cohesion (e.g. social support, attitudes and relationships) in ageing populations, highlighting how all of these issues affect a person’s health.

In parallel, the team produced comparable cross-population analyses of non-fatal mental and physical health outcomes, quality of life and well-being. The resulting tools and analyses will help overcome the limitations of recent ageing studies that generally focus on the impact of specific diseases and genetic markers connected to ageing.

While these findings and innovative instruments for health and disability data collection will not immediately translate into intervention procedures, they will significantly benefit future policymaking. The project has laid the groundwork for providing a common protocol for the first European disability survey, helping clinicians and policymakers alike better understand the impact of an ageing population. Such a survey is bound to help build a better future for Europe's elderly population.

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