Nearly one in five people in England and Wales is over 65 years old, the highest proportion ever recorded, according to a once-in-a-decade census that reported the largest-ever population for the two nations.

The first results of the survey, which took place on March 21 2021, showed a record 59,597,300 residents. This included more older people than ever, with the total rising to 11.1mn, from 9.2mn in the previous survey in 2011.

The share of the population aged 65 and over rose to 18.6 per cent, compared with 16.4 per cent in the previous census, data published on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics showed. London had the youngest population.

The statistics “begin to paint a rich and detailed snapshot of the nation and how we were living during the pandemic”, said Pete Benton, deputy national statistician at the ONS.

However, the rate of population growth in England and Wales across the past decade has eased to 6.3 per cent, compared with a 7.8 per cent increase in the 10 years following 2001. The population in England and Wales increased at its fastest rate between 1801 — the year of the first census — and 1911, when the population grew by 13.6 per cent on average each decade.

The ageing population was particularly marked outside the capital, while London’s population was largely of working age, the latest census showed.

In Wales and the South West, older people accounted for 21.3 per cent and 22.3 per cent of the population respectively. In some regions, including the coastal areas of North Norfolk and Rother, one-third of the population was aged 65 or older.

In London, however, 11.9 per cent of the population was in the older age bracket, while a record 70 per cent was aged between 15 and 64.

The overall population growth was driven by the East of England, the South West and London. In contrast, in Wales and the North East it was largely unchanged with rates of less than 2 per cent growth.

The census will be used to allocate public spending across the nations, including for emergency services, hospital beds, school places and transport.

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