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Global Aging

Unprecedented changes are occurring worldwide as fertility and mortality rates decline in most countries and as populations age. These changes affect individuals, families, governments, and private-sector organizations as they seek to answer questions related to health care, housing, social security, work and retirement, caregiving, and the burden of disease and disability.

BSR is committed to improving health and aging‐related outcomes both nationally and internationally. Research on chronic diseases and the health of older adults is important in order to understand the growing global burden due to these conditions, as well as understanding better the specific challenges of aging in the United States. The Division has been a driving force in the investigation of aging and health outcomes in the international arena, sponsoring collaborative international projects, and disseminating findings in aging-related conditions and concerns affecting people worldwide. The rapid demographic, epidemiologic, and risk‐factor transitions in the United States and around the world make this an opportune time to invest in cross‐national comparative research on the health and well‐being of older adults and their determinants. Significantly, NIA’s Health and Retirement Study (HRS) has served as the model for large-scale longitudinal studies in other countries.

NIA also collaborates with the World Health Organization and others on additional research efforts on global aging issues.

Gateway to Global Aging

The Gateway to Global Aging Data is a platform for population survey data on aging around the world. This site offers a digital library of survey questions, a search engine for finding comparable questions across surveys, and identically defined variables for cross-country analysis.

International Datasets

BSR has encouraged the development of harmonized international studies that use measures that are comparable to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

Additional international datasets not under the HRS family include:


Global Health and Aging Report (PDF, 1.6K)
As both the proportion of older people and the length of life increase throughout the world, key questions arise. Will population aging be accompanied by a longer period of good health, a sustained sense of well-being, and extended periods of social engagement and productivity, or will it be associated with more illness, disability, and dependency? How will aging affect health care and social costs? Are these futures inevitable, or can we act to establish a physical and social infrastructure that might foster better health and well-being in older age? How will population aging play out differently for low-income countries that will age faster than their counterparts have, but before they become industrialized and wealthy? This brief report, jointly issued by the WHO’s Department of Ageing and the Life Course and the NIA attempts to address some of these questions, emphasizing the central role that health will play in coming years.

An Aging World: 2015
Issued in March 2016, this update to the Census Bureau series on global aging was commissioned by the NIA to examine the demographic, health, and economic aspects of global population aging, and includes trends identified in 2007 by the NIA and the U.S. Department of State (Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective). An Aging World: 2015 contains detailed information on aging trends; the dynamics of population aging; life expectancy, health, and mortality; health care systems and population aging; work and retirement, and; pensions and old age poverty. For additional information, please visit the Census Bureau.

Strengthening the Scientific Foundation for Policymaking to Meet the Challenges of Aging in Latin America and the Caribbean: Summary of a Workshop (PDF, 482K)
This report summarizes the proceedings of a workshop convened in May 2015 to consider priorities for strengthening the scientific foundation for policymaking regarding population aging in Latin America and the Caribbean. Topics of discussion included: (1) global perspectives on aging in Latin America and the Caribbean; (2) health status, disability, and mortality; (3) health care systems, access, and quality; (4) labor market participation/retirement; (5) family and social transfers; (6) resilience and aspects of well-being in older age, and; (7) provides opportunities to generate evidence on older adults and move the research agenda forward. The workshop was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Mexican National Academy of Medicine, with additional support provided from the University of Texas Medical Branch, the University of Michigan, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization.

Sharing Research Data to Improve Public Health in Africa: A Workshop Summary (PDF, 1.3M)
This report summarizes a workshop convened in South Africa in March 2015, which focused on the benefits of and barriers to sharing research data in order to improve public health. The purposes of the workshop were to raise the profile of issues around the sharing of public health data in Africa, enable international partners to highlight findings of previous sponsored research on this topic, identify issues that mitigate against public health data sharing and pathways through research and policy venues to foster increased sharing (i.e., enabling data discoverability, linkage, and reuse), and, in general, serve as a way to bring more African voices and perspectives into the dialogue. The latter includes “next steps” to maximize the use of data to improve public health and outcomes. The workshop was sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The workshop summary report was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institute of Health (NIH), and is a product of the Committee on Population of the National Academies of Sciences.

Aging in Asia: Findings from New and Emerging Data Initiatives
The population of Asia is growing both larger and older. Demographically the most important continent in the world, Asia’s population, currently estimated to be 4.2 billion, is expected to increase to about 5.9 billion by 2050. Rapid declines in fertility, together with rising life expectancy, are altering the age structure of the population so that in 2050, for the first time in history, there will be roughly as many people in Asia over the age of 65 as under the age of 15. To address these matters, this publication shall explore four large areas of aging in Asia: (1) new and emerging initiatives (including strengthening infrastructure for science and policy); (2) economic growth, labor markets, and consumption (including population aging, intergenerational transfers, and economic growth; facilitating working lives; retirement processes); (3) family roles and responsibilities (including household dynamics and living arrangements; social networks, family, and caregiving; effects of social activities on cognitive functions), and; (4) health and well-being (including health care and insurance; aging, health, and chronic conditions; life satisfaction). This publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the Carnegie Foundation, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, and the United Nations Population Fund.

Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective (PDF, 1.5K)
This booklet provides a succinct description of population trends that are transforming the world in fundamental ways. The report, using data from the United Nations, US Census Bureau, and the Statistical Office of the European Communities as well as regional surveys, identifies nine emerging trends in global aging. These trends present a snapshot of challenges and opportunities that will stimulate a cross-national scientific and policy dialogue. The booklet was prepared for the March 15, 2007, Summit on Global Aging, hosted by the U.S. State Department in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging.

The National Institute on Aging: A Catalyst for Global Aging Research (PDF, 81K)
NIA leads the Federal research effort to increase our understanding of the nature and implications of aging and to find ways to extend the healthy, active years of life. Established in 1974, NIA’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of older people through research.

Research Highlights: Cross-National Research on Aging (PDF, 117K)
In nearly all regions of the world, the population ages 65 and older is growing faster than the total population,challenging existing health services, family relationships, social security, and pension programs. To help address these challenges, the Behavioral and Social Research Program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) sponsors a wide range of data collection efforts and research related to population aging. This Research Brief highlights cross-national datasets partially or fully funded by NIA, how these data are used to address key research questions, and where people can go for more information.

Aging in Sub-Saharan Africa: Recommendations for Furthering Research (PDF, 2.1M)
In 2006, 64 percent of the worldwide population aged 60 and older resided in developing countries, and this proportion is projected to increase to nearly 73 percent by 2030. Yet the limited understanding of the demographics of aging in most developing countries stands in stark contrast to the comparatively well-documented course and implications of aging in developed countries. (National Research Council, 2006)

Preparing for an Aging World: The Case for Cross-National Research
The projected growth in the numbers and proportions of the world's older population poses an array of challenges to policy makers. How do changes in the ratio of workers to retirees affect the ability of societies to fund old-age security systems? Are we living healthier as well as longer lives, or are our added years accompanied by disabilities and generally poor health? In what ways can the structure and the delivery mechanisms of health systems best adapt to the needs of older populations with a higher prevalence of chronic disease? How do changing family structures affect the demand for public transfers of money, time, and living space? Will population aging lead to lower levels of aggregate saving, investment and productivity growth? Will health care costs rise or decline relative to other costs? (National Research Council, 2001)

Population Clock

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