Show Summary Details
Page of

Demography and public health 

Demography and public health
Demography and public health

Emily Grundy

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD MEDICINE ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Medicine Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 16 May 2022

The health and healthcare needs of a population cannot be measured or met without knowledge of its size and characteristics. Demography is concerned with this essential ‘numbering of the people’ and with understanding population dynamics—how populations change in response to the interplay between fertility, mortality, and migration. This understanding is a pre-requisite for making the forecasts about future population size and structure which should underpin healthcare planning. Analysis of both the present and the future necessitates a review of the past. The number of very old people in a population, for example, depends on the number of births eight or nine decades earlier and risks of death at successive ages throughout the intervening period. The proportion of very old people depends partly on this numerator but more importantly on the denominator (the size of the population as a whole)—itself a function of reproductive behaviour, mortality, and net migration from yesterday back through time. The number of births in a population depends not just on current patterns of family building, but also on the number of women ‘at risk’ of reproduction—itself a function of past trends in fertility and mortality. Similarly, the number of deaths (and their distribution by cause) is strongly influenced by age structure.

Formal or pure demography is largely concerned with answering questions about how populations change and how these changes can be measured. The broader field of population studies embraces the questions of why these changes occur, and with what consequences.

This chapter presents information on demographic methods and data sources, in the context of their application to health and population issues, together with information on demographic trends and their implications and the major theories about demographic change in order to elucidate the complex inter-relationship between population change and human health.

Access to the complete content on Oxford Medicine Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.