NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Demands Of Elderly Care To Climb, Maybe

June 30, 1999

As the U.S. population ages, the costs of long-term care for the elderly are expected to accelerate dramatically. A comparison of the U.S. situation with that of Sweden illustrates the emerging problem.

  • Today, just 14 percent of the U.S. population is age 65 or older, and long-term care accounts for just one-tenth of total health-care outlays.
  • By 2030, however, the aged fraction of the population will hit 20 percent.
  • In Sweden, were 20 percent of the population is already over 65, long-term care accounts for no less than one- third of health-care spending.

Yet experts are noticing that the growth in demand for long-term care in the U.S. has slowed sharply in recent decades despite increases in the number of the elderly.

A National Bureau of Economic Research study found that:

  • Since the mid-1970s, the over-75 population has been increasing at a 2.7 percent annual rate.
  • But the growth in nursing-home residents has slowed from a 4.8 percent rate then, to 1.7 percent by the early 1980s and an even lower 0.4 percent increase in the early 1990s.

The authors of the study say this seeming disparity might be explained by the improving health and longevity of men -- who until the 1980s lagged women substantially in both categories. Although women still live longer than men, men have begun to catch up. And with a healthy man around the house to provide spousal care, the proportion of women entering nursing facilities is leveling off.

Source: Gene Koretz, "Who's Caring for the Aged?" Business Week, June 28, 1999.


Browse more articles on Health Issues