Population aged 100 or older 'hits record level'

image captionWomen continue to live longer despite improving mortality rates for men

The number of people in the UK aged 100 or over has reached a record high, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics said there were 12,640 in 2010, compared with 2,500 in 1980 - a five-fold rise.

And life expectancy in the UK has reached its highest recorded level - 78.1 years for men and 82.1 for women.

The figures come ahead of UK Older People's Day, on 1 October, which marks the ways older people contribute to society.

The biggest contributor to the rising number of centenarians is the increased survival rate of those aged between 80 and 100 as a result of improvements in medical treatment and nutrition, as well as higher housing and living standards.

Current population projections suggest that there will be more than 160,000 people in the UK aged 100 or older in just over 30 years - a 12-fold increase on the current number.

In 2000 there were about nine female centenarians for every person of the opposite sex, but this had reduced to five by last year.

The figures also revealed that although women continue to live longer, mortality rates for men have improved.

With a difference of just 4.1 years between the sexes, the UK has the smallest gap between male and female life expectancy in the EU.

Supercentenarian increase

Regional variations emerged in the ONS figures, with people in West Somerset having the highest average age in the UK - 52.7 - with Norfolk next - 51.5.

And the number of people aged 110 years or more - referred to as supercentenarians - has also increased over the last 30 years.

There are five times as many as there were in 1980, rising from two to 10 in 2010.

George MacKenzie, Registrar General for Scotland, said the number of people who lived for more than 100 years had been "steadily rising" since the start of the 21st Century.

"Estimates for 2010 show a rise in the number of people aged 90 to 99, partly because the number of births during the year 1920 was at its highest level since the introduction of national registration in 1855," he said.

He said this was due to the "large birth cohort" after World War I.

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