Population projection – and it’s depressing

My take-home message from today was slightly depressing.  Sure, women do indeed live longer than men – but they live nearly all of those extra years with a disability.  Sigh…  I have a lingering interest in long-term care (for which I am blaming the ABI and my colleague Richard Walsh) and I got sucked in by the promise of a discussion of ADLs.  No, really.  ADL stands for Acts of Daily Living and it’s a standard method (in insurance and academia) of measuring disability.  If you ‘fail’ an act of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating, moving around indoors or getting to the toilet) you count as disabled.

Govert Bijwaard from the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) gave the seminar.  It was part of a new series organised by the Care Life Cycle group, which is a multi-disciplinary group funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).  He talked about his population projection work using www.micmac-projections.org  (I discovered towards the end of the seminar that this alludes to micro and macro projections).  A population projection is less than a prediction but more than an estimate: it projects the population forward based on certain explicit assumptions.  The assumptions do not have probabilities associated with them: rather they represent different scenarios.  You could project the population of the UK based on, for example, a particular fertility rate.

His projections are based on the population scenarios compiled by Eurostat (EUROPOP2008) and, rather than projecting simple population size, he was projecting numbers of men and women living with a disability (age 55 to 100).  His method was neat, partly because it included a number of simplifying assumptions (notably that the death rates for disabled and non-disabled people have a proportional/linear relationship).  As I said, I found the result a little depressing but one of my colleagues did manage to turn it around for me a little.  You could look at all the disabled older women and feel depressed – or you could look at the same charts and conclude that disability kills men off more quickly than it kills women.  Maybe we’re just harder to kill…

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