Every second person holds Ageist attitude

Every second person in the world hold ageist attitudes that leads to poor physical and mental health and reduced quality of life for older persons, costing societies billions of dollars each year, revealed a new United Nations report on ageism.

WHO, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), released the report.

The report calls for immediate action to combat ageism, which is an insidious scourge on society. The report mentions that Aageism damages the health and well-being of a person. It is also a major barrier to enacting effective policies and taking action on healthy ageing.


The UN organisations say that the response to control the Covid- 19 exposed how widespread ageism is. It revealed how the old and young were stereotyped in public discourse and on social media. In some contexts, the report point out that age was the sole criterion for access to medical care, physical isolation and lifesaving therapies.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that one cannot let age-based stereotypes, discrimination and prejudice limit opportunities towards health care, well being and dignity of people.

Some Findings

The report points out that Ageism seeps into several institutions and sectors of society. This includes that provide health and social care, workplace, media and legal system. Healthcare rationing based solely on age is widespread. It noted that a review in 2020 showed that age determined who received certain medical procedures or treatments in 85 per cent of 149 studies.

The Agesim report shows that older and younger adults are quite often disadvantaged in the workplace. They do not have access to specialized training and education decline significantly with age. Ageism against younger people manifests across many areas such as employment, health, housing and politics.

“Ageism towards younger and older people is prevalent, unrecognized, unchallenged and has far-reaching consequences for our economies and societies,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Another issue that Agesim comes forth is that it has serious and wide-ranging consequences for health and well-being of the people. In older people, Ageism means poorer physical and mental health, decreased quality of life, loneliness, social isolation, financial insecurity and premature death. The report said that about 6.3 million depression cases globally are attributable to Ageism.

United Nations Population Fund Executive Director Natalia Kanem revealed that Covid-19 pandemic put into stark relief the vulnerabilities of older people, especially those most marginalized, who often face overlapping discrimination and barriers.

With respect to economy, the report said that Agesim costs the societies billions of dollars. A 2020 study in America showed that Ageism led to excess annual costs of 63 billion dollars for the eight most expensive health conditions. However, the report said that only limited data and information on the economic costs of ageism was available.


The report has come up with three strategies — policy and law, educational activities and intergenerational contact interventions — to reduce ageism.

Policy and Law

Policies and laws can include those that address age discrimination and inequality and human rights laws. Adopting new instruments at the local, national and international levels can help in strengthening policies and laws against Agesim.

Educational Interventions

All levels of education from primary school to university should  include educational interventions to reduce ageism. Educational activities help enhance empathy and dispel misconceptions about different age groups. It also helps in  reducing prejudice and discrimination by providing accurate information and counter-stereotypical examples.

Inter-generational contact interventions

The report calls for investments in inter-generational contact interventions, which help to foster interaction between people of different generations. Such contact helps reducing intergroup prejudice and stereotypes.


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