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Population ageing in a lifecourse perspective: developing a conceptual framework



Population ageing is a global trend that affects individual life plans, family arrangements, market structures, care provisions and pension schemes. We combine insights from demography and lifecourse research to understand better the causes of population ageing. Demography explains population ageing by describing changes in fertility, mortality and migration rates. Lifecourse research argues that these rates are interconnected because they are embedded in the lifecourses of individuals. An individual's experiences at an early age can influence behaviours at a later age, thereby creating continuity throughout the lifecourse. Additionally, lifecourse research underlines that social networks – such as families – and countries influence lifecourse. Thus, historical events and past experiences have already set the course for today's demographic changes. Moreover, the effects of policies that strive to influence population ageing will not be evident for years or even decades to come. This paper introduces a conceptual framework that explains how the lifecourse perspective can be applied to the phenomenon of population ageing and illustrates the framework through a case study of Germany. The case study highlights that insights from the micro-, meso- and macro-levels need to be combined to achieve a deeper understanding of population ageing. Scholars can use the framework presented in this paper as a guideline for merging arguments from demography and lifecourse research in future studies.


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Address for correspondence: Kathrin Komp, Department of Social Research/Sociology, P.O. Box 18, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland E-mail:


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