APOCALYPSE NO: Population Aging and the Future of Health Care Systems
Illness increases with age. All else equal, an older population has greater needs for health care. This logic has led to dire predictions of skyrocketing costs-- "apocalyptic demography". Yet numerous studies have shown that aging effects are relatively small, and all else is not equal. Cost projections rest on specific assumptions about trends in age- specific morbidity and health care use that are far from self-evident. Sharply contrasting assumptions, for example, are made by Fries, who foresees a "compression of morbidity" and falling needs. Long term trends in health care use in British Columbia show minimal effects of population aging, but major effects, up and down, from changes in age- specific use patterns. Why then is the demographic apocalypse story so persistent, despite numerous contrary studies? It serves identifiable economic interests.
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