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The Chief Medical Officer's annual report 2023 presents an incomplete and skewed picture of the geography of older people in England. We show that there are higher absolute numbers of older people in urban areas in England and Wales, in contrast to key messages from the CMO report which suggest greater need in rural areas based on relative metrics. The absolute size of the urban-rural difference in the population of older people is projected to grow by 2043. Older adults in urban areas are much more likely to live in deprived areas than older adults in rural areas. The absolute number and prevalence of older adults in poorer health is also higher in urban areas, leading to greater healthcare needs. Policy-makers need to consider both absolute and relative demographic trends as well as making use of direct measures of health when planning how healthcare services for older adults are distributed geographically in England.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Med (Lond)

Publication Date





Ageing, Health policy, Regional inequality