Ageing and life-course

Data and research

A man, a woman and a child, sitting and smiling
J. Escribano/ Age International

Focused research, new metrics and methods could give a far better understanding of Healthy Ageing and are essential for evidence-informed policy and evaluation. To achieve this, appropriate measures of Healthy Ageing need to be agreed on and collected through vital statistics, health and social care services, and population surveys across countries. Research in a range of fields contributing to Healthy Ageing across the life course is also required, as are mechanisms to ensure its rapid translation into clinical practice, systems strengthening, population-based health interventions, and shaping of health and broader socio-economic policies.

An older man in the sea, looking to camera.
Frédéric Dupoux/HelpAge International 2010

Governments, research agencies and other key institutions need to fund and carry out research that includes and benefits older people. WHO is conducting a global consultation that will help to identify key research and evidence synthesis priorities in Healthy Ageing. These priorities will then be reviewed with key stakeholders in order to build commitment, a focused direction for future research, and the necessary resources to move the agenda forward.


To improve understanding and investment in Healthy Ageing there needs to be agreement on the indicators that need to be measured. WHO is working with users and producers of data from around the world to review current data sources and develop and agree on a set of measurements for intrinsic capacity and functional ability. This will help to identify gaps in the existing methods and metrics and develop ways that these gaps can be filled.

Christopher Black/WHO

What gets measured gets done. To respond effectively to population ageing, decision makers need meaningful and comparable information on the health status and functioning of older people, and their health and social care needs. Many countries lack this information, which is a major barrier to the development and evaluation of policy and programmes. WHO is working to link existing surveys to compare the health status, needs, and unmet needs of older people. Using this data, countries will be better able to prioritize their investments towards their greatest needs.


More studies are needed on the health status of older people, especially using measurements that are comparable across countries. WHO's Study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE) works towards this goal, as a longitudinal study collecting data on older adults, from nationally representative samples in six countries and across four different world regions.

What WHO is doing

Making progress on Healthy Ageing will require a far better understanding of age-related issues and trends. Three approaches will be crucial for improving measurement, monitoring and research. These are:

  • agreeing on metrics, measures and analytical approaches for Healthy Ageing;
  • documenting Healthy Ageing trajectories across the life course, including variation across and within countries; and
  • conducting research to understand how to improve intrinsic capacity and functional ability across the life course in diverse contexts, involving multiple sectors (health, social, and others), and sharing evidence on what can be done to meet the distinct needs of older populations

To support these approaches WHO works with a broad range of stakeholders to:

  • develop normative tools, including standardized survey instruments and related manuals;
  • support countries to improve their capacity to collect, analyse and use data on Healthy Ageing; and
  • advance research policy for Healthy Ageing (priorities, financing, capacities and dissemination), and support multi-country efforts to improve Healthy Ageing in light of social, gender and biologic determinants, roles of health and other social systems, and broader social and economic context.