Demographic change in Europe and its health and social implications: an overview.
This chapter presents an overview of recent demographic trends in Europe and discusses the implications of these trends for health and social services. The discussion is based on reports received from 15 of the 33 Member States of the European Region of the World Health Organization. The components of demographic change analyzed included population growth and structure, family formation, fertility, mortality, and population movement. Increases in the number and proportion of the elderly were noted and the traditional excess of births over deaths is expected to change in future years. Population aging is expected to continue to be a principal concern for the social services sector. The increasing emphasis on caring for rather than attempting to cure chronic illnesses among the aged suggests a need for more nursing homes and home-help services. Anticipation of future morbidity and mortality patterns implies a need to focus on specific risk groups, e.g. migrants, adult males, and those from lower socioeconomic groupings. With regard to fertility, adolescent sexual activity and the low use levels of contraception among teenagers comprise areas where greater service provision is necessary. In addition, there is a need for more vocational training for women, improved child care facilities, and full-time employment opportunities better suited to the needs of workers with dependent children. As a result of smaller families, increased divorce rates, the discrepancy between male and female survival, and greater regional mobility, markedly higher numbers of single individuals can be expected. Rapidly evolving changes in family formation, social norms, and underlying demographic trends will continue to alter European societies in the years ahead. The interrelationships between health and demographic phenomenon must continue to be probed to form a basis for future health and social planning.