Centenarian population rose by a fifth to record high in 2020

·3-min read

The UK’s elderly population has reached a record high and the number of adults aged 100 has rocketed by 52%, figures show.

The number of UK adults aged 100 and over reached the highest ever level of 15,120 in 2020, an increase of almost a fifth from the year before, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.

This 18% rise was driven by a surge in the number of 100-year-olds, which increased by 52% from 4,980 in 2019 to 7,590 in 2020.

This is in part due to a sharp increase of 45% in the number of births in the year following the First World War, between 1919 and 1920, compounded by improvements in healthcare and quality of life.

Within the UK, Wales had the highest proportion of both male and female centenarians.

Charlie Pallett sings for charity
There were 7,590 100-year-olds in the UK in 2020 (handout/PA)

Wales had 25 people aged 100 and over per 100,000 of the population, compared to 23 per 100,000 in England and 18 per 100,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Estimates of the very old are calculated from death registration data and occur at the mid-point of each year.

In 2020, the growth rate of the population of those aged 90 and over slowed compared to previous years, increasing by 0.7% from 2019 compared to an increase of 3.6% the year prior.

Covid-19 may have been a factor in causing the growth to slow, as the data covers the mid-year period up to June 30 2020, which includes the early months of the pandemic.

The peak in the number of deaths registered involving Covid in 2020 occurred in April, and at this time people aged 90 and over had the highest mortality rate for coronavirus.

Angele Storey, of the Centre for Ageing and Demography at the ONS, said: “While growth in the population aged 90 years and over slowed in the year to mid-2020, most likely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, there was a large rise in the number of people aged 100 and over.

“In fact, the number of centenarians grew by almost a fifth from the previous year. This was driven by people born in the post-World War One birth spike, turning 100 years old.

Winnie Blagden centenarian
The figures show the number of 100-year-olds increased by 52% in 2020 (PA)

“Improvements in living standards and public health over the last century have improved the chances of those born at that time surviving to age 100.”

There are twice as many women aged 90 years and over than men in the UK, with 1.9 females to every male in the 90-94 age group, and 2.8 females to every male in the 95-99 age group.

This is because on average women live longer than men, so the ratio of women to men increases with age within the 90 and over population.

However, this gap has narrowed for the last three years as male life expectancy increased at a faster rate than female’s, due to better working conditions as heavy industry declined and a reduction in the number of male smokers relative to women.

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