Belfast Telegraph

25% of newborns 'will live to 100'

A quarter of children born in Northern Ireland this year are set to live to be at least 100, research has indicated.

The dramatic future increase in the number of people reaching the three-figure landmark has been predicted by analysts at the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Dr David Marshall, head of demographic statistics at NISRA, said the "remarkable" projection was based on current morality rates and longer-term trends.

The statistician said in the past less than 1% of people born in a certain year in Northern Ireland would reach 100.

"If mortality rates continue to decrease as they are, a child born today will have a 25% chance of living to 100," he said.

In the shorter term, the number of people aged 65 and over is predicted to increase by a quarter by 2022, from 273,000 to 344,000.

Those in the 85 and over category are projected to increase in number by nearly 50% from 33,000 to 48,000 in the same time period.

Dr Marshall claimed a growing older population would not necessarily see a proportionate increase in demand on health services, explaining that the reason people were living longer was due to better overall health.

"It doesn't necessarily follow that there will be huge healthcare demands," he said.

"People say 40 is the new 30, well 85 could be the new 70."

With currently 10,000 more births than deaths registered in Northern Ireland each year - 24,000 to 14,000 - Northern Ireland's population is set to break the 2 million mark by 2036.

With the population last year sitting at 1.82 million, the total number of people living in the region should pass 1.9 million by the end of the decade, according to the latest NISRA projections.

The rate of population growth is set to be somewhat tempered in the short term by a reversal of migration trends.

In the next five years, 3,000 more people are set to leave Northern Ireland than will move to the region.

This contrasts to the period 2004 to 2008 when migration movement accounted for a 32,000 growth in the population.

Dr Marshall said economic factors had contributed to the turn-around.

"Since 2008 what has happened is that around about 2006/07, when we had about 10,000 come in in one of those years, basically it's swapped from a net gain of 10,000, to a net loss in the last year of just over 1,000. Effectively there is 11,000 people of a swing over a period of four to five years."

He said longer-term population projections were based on the assumption that, after the anticipated losses in the coming five years, emigration and immigration would be broadly in balance thereafter.

"In the longer term it is difficult to say, the economy could turn round, we could have people coming from Romania and Bulgaria (after lifting of EU migration controls)," he said.

"There are a lot of 'what ifs' there. We have taken the conservative view that migration will be in balance."

In the next 10 years the number of children aged under 16 is projected to rise by 5% - 382,000 to 401,000.

The population aged 16 to 64 is set to remain at around 1,174,000.

At the request of the UK National Statistician and Registrars General for Scotland and Northern Ireland, official population projections are produced for the four UK nations every second year.

The figures are used in government policy development, in areas such as education, housing, healthcare and pensions.

Population projections for geographic areas within Northern Ireland will be published next year.

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