Better to be old in Britain than in France: UN study

Ben McPartland
Ben McPartland - [email protected]
Better to be old in Britain than in France: UN study
Better to be old in Britain than France. Photo: Ernst Moeksis

Thousands of people leave Britain each year to while away their retirement years in France but the first global league table of the best countries to grow old in, published by the UN on Tuesday, suggests they might be better off staying put.


According to the results of the UN's Global AgeWatch Index, which examined the quality of life of the elderly in 91 countries, it is better to spend your twilight years in Britain rather than France.

Whilst Sweden came top, ahead of Norway and Germany and, perhaps unsurprisingly, given its recent turbulent history Afghanistan came bottom, Ireland was ranked 12th  the UK was ranked 13th with France below in 18th.

This may come as somewhat of a shock to the hundreds of thousands of Britons who have upped sticks and move to France to retire in recent years, many of whom may wish to dispute the findings.

Researchers used 13 different indicators - including health provision, income and employment, education, and environment - to rank each country.

Here’s what the study said about the UK and France and why they were ranked where they were.

The United Kingdom

"The UK ranks 13 overall on the Index. Among the four domains it ranks highest in income security - 10 out of 91 countries. The UK's figures for pension income coverage, poverty rate of older people and relative income of older people are close to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) averages of 103.3%, 13.6%, and 86.4% respectively.

"For health and the enabling environment domains the UK ranks 19 and 17 respectively. Its life expectancy and health life expectancy at 60 are above the OECD average of 23.5 and 17.6 years.

"Older people in the UK also feel greater social connectedness with friends and family than the OECD average - 7 percentage points more.


"France ranks 18 out of 91 on the overall Index. It is ranked lower in the employment and education domain, at 41, than the other three domains, which is similar to other countries in the region, including Belgium and Luxembourg.

"The ranking for income security is very high at 2 in the Index. A large proportion of older people are covered by a pension scheme and a small percentage of older people have an income of less than half the country's average; 8.8%.

"Like other Western and Northern European countries, France also ranks high in the enabling environment domain, at 15.

The Global AgeWatch Index 2013 - the first-ever to measure the quality of life and wellbeing of older people around the world - also found that by 2050, older people will outnumber children under 15 for the first time, with most of the elderly in developing countries.

Developed with the support of the United Nations Fund for Population and Development (UNFPA) and advocacy group HelpAge International the Index covers 89% of the world's older people.

The researchers stressed that their data did not take into account economic, gender, social and other inequalities in any of the 91 societies that were included in the overview.

You can find out why Sweden came top of the league by visiting our sister website at The Local Sweden.

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