Research and analysis

Attitudes to age in Britain 2010/11: in-house research no. 7

A study of the attitudes to ageing in Britain and the socio-demographic variables associated with those attitudes.



by Daniel Sweiry and Maxine Willitts

Britain’s population is ageing rapidly. Record numbers of centenarians are predicted over the coming years and life expectancy, overall, is steadily increasing. These events will pose a number of challenges to Britain.

One of these is age discrimination, which prevents the social inclusion of older people. Negative attitudes and age stereotypes will leave older people feeling isolated and excluded from opportunities. There is also a cost to society as well. Lost productivity of older workers and long-term health costs of those excluded from economic activity to name but a few. Understanding attitudes to age is imperative if we are to develop appropriate strategies for an ageing population.

This report, specifically, re-examines the evidence on attitudes to ageing in Britain in 2010/11 and looks at which socio-demographic variables are associated with attitudes to ageing. The data are from over 2,000 respondents to a series of 2 nationally representative face-to-face interview surveys.

Seven age constructs were examined:

  • the importance of age to people’s self-concept, and what determines how they judge ` others as ‘young’ or ‘old’
  • beliefs that age prejudice and discrimination are a problem
  • personal experience of age discrimination
  • stereotypes that exist about older and younger people, and their implications
  • beliefs that the ageing population endangers employment prospects, access to services and resources, or endangers the culture and way of life of all people
  • the expression of age prejudice
  • beliefs that younger and older people share a single community and intergenerational divide