Senior population growing, but “boomerangst” over healthcare sustainability may be overblown

OTTAWA, February 22, 2011–A perception exists that healthcare expenditures will rise to unsustainable levels as the proportion of seniors in our population continues to grow, creating concerns about service cuts and/or tax increases. But costs do not increase uncontrollably just because there are more seniors. Research shows that the main drivers of healthcare costs in the years to come will be inflation and technological innovation, not demographics. The myth that
aging is an important cost driver is tackled in the latest issue of the Mythbusters series, published today by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF), entitled “Myth: The aging population is to blame for uncontrollable healthcare costs.”

It’s true that seniors cost the system more per capita than younger people. They are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions, leading to more doctor visits and longer hospital stays, and greater “need” for pharmaceuticals. However, all people with multiple chronic conditions experience this level of need, and all people—old and young alike—in their final years of life tend to cost the system more.
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