Increasing life expectancy and the growing elderly population

  • Helge Brunborg


The life expectancy has increased rapidly in Norway in recent decades, with about ¼ year per year. The increase has been particularly fast for men, following a temporary decline in the 1950s and 1960s. Statistics Norway’s mortality projections using the Lee-Carter method indicate further improvements in this century – about 10 years higher life expectancy at birth. This implies significant mortality declines for older persons as the mortality is now small for young people. With no deaths below age 50 the life expectancy would be only 1-2 years higher.

Population projections are for several reasons important for studying population ageing, including to have knowledge about the future age structure, and to estimate the effects of possible policy changes. In addition, the mortality projections are used for several other purposes than for projecting the population, such as calculating future pensions according to the new pension system, where life expectancy improvements reduce the annual pensions.

The population projections show that the population will age regardless of plausible assumptions made about the demographic components births, deaths, immigration and emigration. Policies to affect these components may only marginally affect future ageing, and in some cases in the wrong direction. The only factor that may significantly affect the future ratio of the working to the non-working population, the potential support ratio, is that people work longer. This ratio will remain at the current level if the pension age is increased from the current 67 years to 78 years at the end of the century. This may be possible if the health of old persons continues to improve.

How to Cite
Brunborg, H. (2012). Increasing life expectancy and the growing elderly population. Norsk Epidemiologi, 22(2).