Looking at demographic change from a local perspective differs greatly from the national picture, as some parts of the UK are ageing faster than others
We’re all living longer. Men born today in the UK can expect to live 8.4 years longer than those born in the early 1980s, while women can expect to live 6.1 years longer, and the UK’s average age rose from 35.1 in 1947 to 40.2 today.
However, a report from independent research and policy organisation the Resolution Foundation – Ageing Fast and Slow – has found that different parts of the country now have very different average ages.Demographic Trend: A new report has found that different parts of the country now have very different average ages. Click To Tweet
North Norfolk is the area of the UK with the oldest typical age (53.8 years), while the youngest area is Oxford (29 years). Looking at the UK from a demographic perspective, there are clear geographic patterns in typical ages across the country showing that rural and coastal areas, such as those in the South West, are getting older, while urban areas with a higher proportion of working-age adults, and places with a higher student population, are getting younger.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the opportunities it offers to younger people, one of the youngest area in the UK is London, where the typical age is 35.3 years.
But the report uncovers some surprises and finds that even places that are located next to one another can have dissimilar age structures – for example, people from Brighton and Hove have a typical age of 35.4 years, compared to its neighbour Lewes, which has a typical age of 47.7 years.
The report also finds that we are experiencing demographic divergence and that areas of the country with older populations are ageing faster, while relatively young places seem to be getting younger.
This is partly because of migration. Many urban areas bring in students who then leave in their early 20s, while other areas such as London and Manchester attract people in their early 20s for economic reasons.
However, births and deaths make a difference too, with older places getting older as they’re experiencing a lack of births.
So why does this matter?
The large Baby Boomer generation is now just hitting retirement age. Clearly, places with a greater share of older residents face higher demands on health and social care services, while childcare and education services are likely to be more in demand in younger areas.
But there are growing productivity gaps between areas too, and the report states that evidence suggests that an ageing population is bad for productivity growth, with 35 to 44 year olds being particularly important for productivity.
Finally, the report finds that age has replaced class as the big dividing line in our politics. The analysis shows that the oldest and youngest constituencies have become aligned to a particular party, and consequently Conservative MPs currently have an incentive to implement policies that benefit older people while it makes sense Labour MPs will try to appeal to younger adults.
As a result, the age of parliamentary constituencies is now an increasing determinant of which party’s candidate will get returned to Westminster at an election.