Health conditions are likely to continue to change in the future with the rapid ageing of the global population and modifications in work habits and leisure activities. It is estimated that the elderly population (aged 65 and above) will increase globally by more than 80% during the next 25 years. In at least 10 countries, one person in five will be elderly by the year 2020. Most deaths among the elderly will be due to cancers, and lung and heart diseases.
Increased life expectancy, resulting primarily from declines in child mortality and in fertility, and the prevention of deaths from infectious diseases, is increasing the risks of developing certain chronic and debilitating diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and mental disorders.
The rapid mechanization of everyday life brings hazards. These include changing behaviour (sedentary living; excessive or ill-balanced diets rich in calories, cholesterol and salt; smoking) and a deteriorating environment (air pollution; exposure to chemicals and biological agents; contamination of soil and water; risks to food safety). They result in increases in heart and lung disease, and cancer.
The profound changes in work habits and lifestyles associated with modernization mean that conditions such as diabetes and premature disability associated with ergonomic factors are increasing among young adults and in the working population. In addition, more people are likely to suffer from psychiatric and neurological conditions.
Greater longevity and economic progress have been accompanied by an increasing burden of chronic disease and social and behavioural health problems. For more people, the price of living to a later age is pain, suffering, loss of physical capacity, and social impairment. Their quality of life is diminished, and part of the price to society is the substantial monetary costs associated with mental illness and behavioural problems.
While later death is in itself a benefit, the question of quality of life during the additional years needs to be considered.
Current demographic changes are also creating an unprecedented imbalance between the young and the old. While the elderly population is growing rapidly, by the year 2020 the working population of 20-64 years will grow much more slowly (46%) and newborns by only 3%.
Among the socioeconomic implications for countries will be the imbalance between the elderly and the working populations. Fewer people of productive age will increasingly have to provide for an expanding number of elderly dependants.