An Aging Global Population

The world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. The rapidly aging population, longer life expectancy and general increase in rare or chronic diseases is impacting healthcare worldwide.

Over eight percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over. According to the report, “An Aging World: 2015,” this percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion). This trend also equates to a rise in drug manufacturing. In fact, it is predicted that global medicine use is expected to reach 4.5 trillion doses by 2020, up 24 percent from 2015.

“Older people are a rapidly growing proportion of the world’s population,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “People are living longer, but that does not necessarily mean that they are living healthier. The increase in our aging population presents many opportunities while also several public health challenges that we need to prepare for.”

Worldwide, the population aged 80 and over is projected to more than triple between 2015 and 2050, from 126.5 million to 446.6 million. The 80-and-older population in some rapidly aging Asian and Latin American countries will experience remarkable growth; their share of the total population in the next 35 years is projected to quadruple.

“We are seeing population aging in every country in every part of the world,” said John Haaga, Ph.D., acting director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research.

An aging population affects so many aspects of public life—acute and long-term health care needs, transportation and even housing. The changing age structures in most parts of the world have contributed to a growing number of older people who may have various health conditions or concerns about functioning in older age.

Cultural Diversity in U.S. Healthcare

Changing population demographics have a significant impact on healthcare demands. Consider these statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • In 2043, no one single group will make up a majority. By 2060, “minorities” – meaning those who are not of white European descent – are projected to comprise 57 percent of the population, up from 37 percent today.
  • By 2060, nearly one in three Americans will be Hispanic (the term used by the U.S. Census), up from one in six today. The Hispanic population will more than double, to 128.8 million.
  • The Asian-American population will double to 34.4 million in 2060, comprising 8.2 percent of the total population.
  • The number of international migrants is expected to grow by 41.2 million.

For U.S. healthcare experts like Patricia Prelock, Ph.D., dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Vermont, these changing demographics underscore the importance of cultural diversity in a profession where the patient-provider relationship is key to determining the quality of care.

“The patients we’re serving now will look very different from the patients we’re going to be serving in 20 years,” Prelock says. “If we don’t have the cultural context of the people we’re serving, we’re not going to be effective as healthcare professionals.”

Cultural values can substantially affect the patient’s healthcare experience and perception. For example, in some Latin American cultures simpatía is an important word and cultural value. Translated as “congeniality” or “affection,” the level of simpatía that patients perceive in clinical settings influences how satisfied they feel with their care. This potentially affects their willingness to disclose their complete patient history, to adhere to treatment, to report adverse events and to make follow-up visits.

In addition to understanding cultural context, there are also language barriers. In the context of a hospital or medical clinic, where medical terminology can be complicated, this language barrier can be especially problematic. Further, patient materials, forms and paperwork may contain a variety of complicated medical terms that may not directly translate into another language.

Cultural considerations and working with healthcare industry experts are all key components of a successful translation process. Contact Welocalize Life Sciences for information on how we can help your global organization publish patient handouts and other regulated materials, that are accurate and speak directly to your local, target audiences.