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The facts about ageism

Get to know the facts about ageism and how it affects different parts of our lives.

  • More than 40% of people have never really thought about ageism before
  • 1 in 10 people believe that ageism doesn’t exist
  • Over half the public believes UK society is ageist
  • Half of people of people worry about getting older - and one in five worry about it often
  • Over half of people think older people are less visible in society
  • Fewer than a third of the general public think that the treatment of older people is good
  • 1 in 3 people think older age is characterised by frailty, vulnerability and dependency
  • Just 2.5% of older people (aged 65 and over) live in care homes, yet the public thinks it’s 25%
  • Children as young as three begin to develop stereotypes about older people
  • Older applicants are less likely to be hired, and once employed, less likely to receive training
  • 1 in 3 people aged over 50 believe they have been turned down for a job because of their age
  • 1 in 5 employers believe that age discrimination occurs in their organisation
  • Older adults are the most likely to volunteer, vote and provide unpaid care, alongside their contributions to the economy as workers and consumers
  • 1 in 5 older people live in poverty, yet the idea of the rich baby boomer remains common in the media
  • Older consumers are responsible for half of all household spending, yet businesses do not adequately serve this market in terms of products, services or advertising
  • 4 in 5 people aged over 55 say their favourite retail brand no longer understands them or their needs
  • Stereotypes, including that depression is normal in older age, lead to older people with common mental health conditions (such as anxiety and depression) being less likely to be offered talking therapies than younger people, but more likely to be on anti-depressants
  • Older people have been found to be systematically excluded from health research, despite many conditions being more common in older age
  • People with a negative idea about later life might delay seeking medical help for a health issue if they consider health issues to be a normal part of ageing
  • UK media is among the most ageist. A study of the use of language related to older age in web-based magazines and newspapers found that of 20 countries, the UK was the most ageist of all
  • Just 1 in 4 TV ads feature characters aged 50 or older and one in 20 feature characters aged 70 or older
  • 4 in 5 advertising professionals think their industry is seen as ageist
  • Impact on mental health - Repeated negative portrayals of older people, or the absence of positive portrayals, can lead to poor body image or increased pessimism and anxiety about getting older
  • Impact on physical health - In some cases, older people receive different medical treatment because of their age or don’t seek help for medical problems because they assume they are a normal part of ageing. Ageism can also lead to people limiting the activities that promote better health such as physical activity (due to negative ideas about appearance, suitability or physical capability). During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw attempts to limit the lifesaving resources available to older people, with ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ decisions being made without consultation with individuals or their families
  • Impact on finances - Ageism in the workplace means older people not being able to work for as long as they want to. This can lead to people being locked out of employment and potentially facing financial insecurity and poverty in later life
  • Impact on the economy and wider society - Ageism has a detrimental impact on the workforce -460,000 people aged 50-64 are currently out of work but would like to be in work and ageism is one of the key barriers older workers face. Shutting older people out of the workforce has repercussions for the economy through the effect on income tax and national insurance receipts as well as the welfare bill. It also exacerbates the current skills and labour shortages faced by many industries. Ageism by omission leads to a failure to design and build age-friendly homes and communities (including transport, accessible streets and public spaces and facilities such as toilets) despite the increasing need from an ageing population

For more information about ageism, visit our FAQs page or browse our research and resources.

* Ageism is the most widespread form of discrimination: anyone can experience it. However, the probability of being discriminated against is higher for people with other particular protected characteristics including ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation