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Age of world’s worshipers could shape global issues

NEW YORK (December 5, 2016)–The relative portion of older adherents to the world’s religions will shift in the coming decades, according to a study by a researcher at the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, Mailman School of Public Health. In 2010, Jews had the largest portion of seniors with 20 percent age 60 and older; on the low end, only 7 percent of Muslims represented this age group. By 2050, the study projects that Buddhists and the religiously unaffiliated will be tied for the greatest portion of oldest members, both at 32 percent; Muslims will remain the youngest religious group with only 16 percent. The global population of Christians will age relatively slowly, from 14 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2050.

The study is the first to account for aging, mortality, and fertility rates between religious groups, and religious conversion and secularization trends covering almost all countries. Results appear in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

More than 2,500 data sources, including censuses, demographic surveys, and other population surveys from 198 countries–accounting for more than 99 percent of the world population–were studied. The researchers identified and synthesized the data building up a global dataset over half a decade.

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