Study: Older People Are A Benefit To The Economy

Steve Coxon  |  April 27, 2016

While some believe seniors may be a burden on the economy, they are actually a benefit, according to research.

A recent study conducted by the University College London School of Pharmacy shows that older adults are a benefit to the UK economy. The report, Active Ageing: Live long and prosper, debated a common belief that older people are a key source of economic problems. The UCL researchers provided evidence that living longer can actually override additional health and social care costs of the population ageing.

The research

The researchers said that, since the 1950s, life expectancy at 65 has increased by approximately six years. People are staying healthier, and thus living longer. It is believed that the advances in pharmaceuticals may have a lot to do with this.

Data from the 1980s and 1990s indicated that only 0.2 per cent of the annual increase in spending for the NHS was a result of population ageing. In 2010, cost increases were outweighed by £40 billion contributed by people aged 65 and over. It is projected that the population of retired older people in 2030 will double that amount, contributing £80 billion to the economy. Even higher contributions will come from an "increasing policy emphasis on extending health life expectancy as an explicitly planned, high priority objective."

For the future

Healthy life expectancy will also increase if community pharmacy and other local services promote and adopt 'protective lifestyles'.

"In the future, integrated life long preventive care and support will enable resources like community pharmacies and community nursing to be used to optimum effect, permitting progressively longer healthy life expectancies," according to Professor David Taylor, co-author of the study.

A challenge that could contribute to a decrease in the economy is disease, such as Alzheimer's, but the researchers believe that future improvements in diagnostic products and pharmaceuticals will counter the effects of such diseases.

Even if older people need long term care, the researchers say that it will not have any significant impact on the economy.

"For instance, the extra public cost of the recent Dilnot proposals for making residential and community care more fairly available in England would, if implemented, probably be under 0.2 per cent of current UK Gross National Product," Taylor explained.

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