Religious Affliation Among Older Age Groups Worldwide: Estimates for 2010 and Projections Until 2050
The religious landscape of older adults around the world is changing profoundly. Yet until now, no study has chronicled these changes or compared expected aging patterns of religious groups. Differential aging among religious groups can have important economic and social consequences. This study estimates and projects the future religious composition by age at the global and regional levels.
This study presents estimates of age structures by religion for 2010 and projections until 2050. It is based on analyses of more than 2,500 censuses, registers, and surveys from 198 countries. Regional and global results are the aggregate of demographic projections carried out at the country level.
In 2010, Muslims were least likely to be aged 60 or older (7% of all Muslims), and Jews were most likely to be in this age group (20% of all Jews). By 2050, we project that Buddhists and the religiously unaffiliated will have the oldest populations (both will have 32% above the age of 60), whereas Muslims will remain the youngest religious group (with only 16% above the age of 60). Christians will, globally, age relatively slowly, from 14% to 21% above the age of 60 from 2010 to 2050.
The religious landscape among the world’s seniors will change fundamentally in the coming years, due to the combination of rapid aging among the religiously unaffiliated and Buddhist populations and the persistence of relatively young age structures among Muslims and Christians, which are the dominant religions in Africa.