Nearly 1,400 centenarians

On 1 January 2005 the Dutch population included 1,381 centenarians, 91 more than twelve months previously. Although centenarians are the fastest growing age group in the Netherlands, they remain an exceptional phenomenon: only one in around 12 thousand people have celebrated their 100th birthday.

Centenarians by sex, 1950-2005

Five out of six centenarians are women

Half a century ago, 40 people living in the Netherlands were 100 years or older. After 1960 this number doubled every ten years, but around 1990 the increase slowed down. The reason for this was the unfavourable development in the mortality risk for men between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s. Since then the mortality risk for men has been falling relatively more quickly than that for women. However, this has not had an effect on the number of centenarians. In this group, the ratio of men to women has shifted sharply in the last twenty years. Today only one in six centenarians is a man.

Number of men per 100 women by age group

Average age remains just over 102 years

The increase in the number of centenarians is mainly caused by the lower risk of dying at middle and early old age. The mortality risk for older ages has changed much less. So more people are reaching old age, but only few of them reach extreme old age. The average age of centenarians is 102.1 years. This has hardly changed in the last century.

Centenarians by age

World’s oldest woman lives in the Netherlands

For a long time, the Netherlands was one of the leaders in Europe in terms of the percentage of centenarians in the total population. However, the development in mortality risks at higher ages has been relatively less favourable in the Netherlands and the Dutch percentage is now below the European average. France now has the largest proportion of centenarians in its population; it also has the record age ever reached: 122 years. At the moment the oldest person in the world is a Dutch woman born in 1890.

Joop Garssen