‘Attitudes to Ageing in Britain 2010-2100’


Research published recently by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) shows that age-related discrimination and stereotyping remain rooted in British society. The findings are based on new analysis from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) Opinions Survey. The report looks at the factors that are associated with age discrimination and prejudice and compares attitudes between two key groups, people in their 20s and people aged 70 and over.

Key findings are:

On average, respondents thought that ‘youth’ ends at 41 and that 'old age' begins at 59. However this varied by as much as twenty years in relation to the age of the respondent. The age at which respondents stated youth stopped and old age started increased in relation to the age of the respondent.

Just over a third of respondents said they had been shown some age-related prejudice in the last year. This has risen slightly from a quarter in the previous survey. Experiences of age discrimination were more common for younger groups, with under 25s at least twice as likely to have experienced discrimination than other age groups.

Perceptions towards those aged over 70 are more positive than towards those in their 20s. People over 70 are viewed as more friendly, having higher moral standards and as being more competent than people in their 20s.

In terms of general status, people in their 40s were viewed as having the highest status. On average people aged over 70 were given a higher status than those in their 20s.

On average, both those in their 20s and those over 70 were viewed as ‘neutral’ in terms of their contribution to society.

Respondents were asked to say how acceptable or unacceptable they would find a suitably qualified 30-year-old or 70-year-old boss. While most respondents were accepting of either, three times as many (15 per cent and 5 per cent respectively) thought that having a 70-year-old boss would be 'unacceptable' compared with having a 30-year-old boss.

Nearly half of all respondents viewed people in their 20s and aged over 70 as being two groups which are part of the same community. However a third viewed these groups as being individuals rather than groups.

The majority of respondents had friends in either age group whom they could discuss personal issues with, however people were more likely to have someone under 30 to talk to (77 per cent) than over 70 (69 per cent).

The full report is available at http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/ihs-index.asp

DWP’s previous research report ‘Attitudes to Age in Britain 2004-08’ published at:



Age discrimination is against the law under the Equality Act 2010.  The Act provides protection to employees against ageism in education, employment and training.  In addition, from 1 October 2011, employers are no longer allowed to issue forced retirement notices to employees and the Default Retirement Age (DRA) has been abolished from this date.    

This research has identified some perceptions and attitudes relating to age.

From a health perspective, individuals must be treated equally regardless of age.  Healthwork has wide experience of advising employers about measures they should take under the Equality Act 2010.  Healthwork also performs medical assessments of employees who may be finding certain aspects of their work difficult due to ill health.  Healthwork would in these cases provide advice about fitness for work and adjustments needed, thus enabling employers to make informed and defensible decisions.