This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Older Brits

When older people go missing, the usual assumption is that they suffer from some form of dementia and are out wandering around, lost and at risk of harm to themselves. However, a blog post in the Economist alerts us to an article recently published in the journal TheActuary, pointing out that there were about 30,000 fewer people aged 90 and older counted in the 2011 UK census than would have been expected.
Forecasting the number of 90-year-olds sounds easy; take the number of 80-year-olds from the last census, apply the mortality tables and bob's your great-uncle. But the 2011 census is 30,000 nonagenarians short, a 15% decline relative to expectations. The biggest shortfall is in the male cohort but female centenarians are more than 10% down on forecasts.
In broad terms, the likely explanation is that mortality was higher over the past decade for people aged 80 and older in 2001 than was expected, but it isn't clear yet why that might be. The investigation into this is going to involve analyses of vital statistics for the elderly, as well as a reexamination of the census data themselves. This will take a while, so don't expect film at 11, but the results will be important. especially since you might recall that in 2010, a comparison of the census data on centenarians in Japan with those listed on government records found that only about a tenth of those on the rolls were actually alive--they had been fraudulently left on the records by relatives collecting their pensions long after their death.

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