About the data
Statistics and projections produced by Office for National Statistics (ONS) have long shown that the UK’s population is ageing. The latest projections show that in mid 2043 there is likely to be many more people at older ages. There is a growing number of older people in the UK, by mid 2043 people aged 85 years and over is projected to nearly double to 3 million.
The changing and ageing structure of our population is driven primarily by two factors. Firstly, improvements in life expectancy mean that people are living longer and reaching older ages. Along with this, there has been a decrease in fertility rates, with people are having fewer children as well having children later in life.
Older people account for the highest proportion of the population in rural and coastal areas, like Somerset. Often inward migration of older people coupled with the outward migration of younger people, typically in the 20s and 30s, further compounds this demographic shift.
In 2000, 19.6% of Somerset’s population were under 16 years of age, 61.0% were between 16 and 64 and 19.4% were aged 65 and over. By 2010, the population under 16 years of age had dropped to 17.8%, whilst the population aged 65 and over had increased to 20.9%. ONS projections show that this trend towards an ageing population is set to continue over the next 20+ years. Projections show that by 2040 one third of the population in Somerset will be 65 or over.
When we look at demographic breakdowns at the district level, we see that Somerset West and Taunton has a slightly higher proportion of the older population, closely followed by South Somerset. Projections show that by 2040 a similar pattern will exist.
The chart below further breaks down the respective populations of Somerset, the South West and England by age group. Besides showing, in simple terms, that Somerset’s population is older than both the South West’s and England’s, it also clearly demonstrates a reduction of people in their 20s and 30s, which is typically attributed to outward migration for educational and/or employment opportunities. Though to a lesser extent, this is also true of the South West as whole. Conversely, Somerset’s population is relatively larger for the 50+ cohort, attributed in part to inward migration of people later in life, including retirees.
Source: ONS, NOMIS, Population Projections March 2020, and Population estimates June 2021