Journal Article

Preparing for the future: the changing demographic composition of hospital patients in Denmark between 2013 and 2050

Oksuzyan, A., Höhn, A., Krabbe Pedersen, J., Rau, R., Lindahl-Jacobsen, R., Christensen, K.
PLoS One, 15:9, e0238912 (2020)
Open Access


Background: Population aging will pose huge challenges for healthcare systems and will require a promotion of positive attitudes towards older people and the encouragement of careers in geriatrics to attract young professionals into the field and to meet the needs of a rapidly growing number of old-aged patients. We describe the current demographic profile of hospital care use in Denmark and make projections for changes in the patient profile up to 2050.

Methods: The Danish population in 2013 (N=5.63 million) was followed up for inpatient and emergency admissions recorded in Danish hospitals in 2013 using population-based registers. We combined age- and sex-specific hospital care use in 2013 with official population estimates to forecast the profile of hospital days up to 2050 with respect to age and sex.

Results: The total number of hospital days per year is projected to increase by 42% between 2013 and 2050, from 4.66 to 6.72 million days. While small changes are projected for the population aged 0-69, the largest change is projected to occur for the population aged 70+. The 2013 levels were 0.82 and 0.93 million days for men and women aged 70+, respectively. By 2050, these levels are projected to have reached 1.94 and 1.84 million days. While the population aged 70+ accounted for 37.5% of all days in 2013, its contribution is projected to increase to 56.2% by 2050.

Conclusion: Our study shows one possible scenario for changes in the hospital days due to population aging by 2050: Assuming no changes in hospital care use over the forecast period, the absolute contribution of individuals aged 70+ to the total hospital days will more than double, and the relative contribution of persons aged 70+  will account for nearly 60% of all hospital days by 2050, being largest among men.

Keywords: Denmark, forecasts, hospitalization, old age, population registers
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.