Ky. is getting older; sees more deaths than births for several years

Kentucky’s population is getting older, and that is expected to put a strain on the state’s health-care system, which already lacks enough primary-care providers, Sarah Ladd reports for the Kentucky Lantern.

An analysis of new census data by the Kentucky State Data Center found that Appalachian Kentucky is aging faster than the rest of the state, possibly due to young people moving away, but the oldest counties are in West Kentucky, while counties with colleges and military clusters are home to the younger populations Ladd reports.

The data show that from 2010 to 2020, the median age of Kentuckians increased from 38.1 to 39.4 and the share of people 65 and older increased from 13.3% (just over one in eight) to 17% (just over one in six).

“It’s not unexpected that the population is aging like this,” said KSDC director Matthew H. Ruther, a University of Louisville professor, told Ladd.

Ruther said that the increase from 13% to 17% in people 65 and older is “a really big jump.”

“And it’s not done yet. We’re going to still be seeing this going into the future,” estimating that the 65 and older population will eventually hit 20%, he told Ladd.

“The peak of the baby boom was in 1957,” he explained. “Those people are now 66. And so you’re … still going to be seeing this older population get larger, both in absolute terms and as a percent of the population.”

Effects on health care and health

With Kentucky’s aging population comes an influx of medical needs that the state and its health-care systems will have to consider, writes Ladd.

The National Council on Aging said in March that about 95% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. And almost 80% have two or more chronic conditions, according to the Center on Aging.
“Yet large areas of Kentucky suffer from a lack of primary-care providers,” Ladd notes. “The Kentucky Primary Care Association said in 2022 that 94% of the state’s 120 counties don’t have enough.”

“People are already having trouble getting to doctors or hospitals because of supply issues,” Ruther told Ladd. “If nothing changed, then this is going to become more problematic in the future.”

Ladd also reports that deaths exceeded births in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, when there were nearly 4,000 more deaths than births in Kentucky. In 2021, deaths exceeded births by 8,089, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That trend is slowing, but is continuing. Preliminary data released June 1 show that in 2022, Kentucky deaths (57,269) exceeded births (52, 219) by 5,050.

However, Kentucky was one of only 13 states that showed an increase in births in 2022, barely: five more births than in 2021, according to the preliminary data for 2022 and final numbers for 2021.

Nationally, the number of births has plateaued after a modest increase in 2021, reports Tim Henderson of States Newsroom, Kentucky Lantern’s parent organization, citing CDC data available May 30.

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