Healthline – A growing global population highlights the need for family planning resources, healthcare workers, and better access to healthcare.
The population of Planet Earth is expected to exceed 11 billion people by the end of the century, according to new official United Nations population projections.
At the moment, the global population is about 7.3 billion, an increase of a billion people in the past 12 years.
While the global population continues to grow, it’s doing so at a lower rate than before. Recently, the Earth’s inhabitants grew at 1.24 percent each year, while it’s currently down to 1.18 per year, creating an increase of 83 million people annually.
This continuing growth, as well as a growing number of people with unprecedented life expectancies, will create new and lasting challenges for healthcare worldwide.
John Wilmoth, director of the population division at the United Nations, told Healthline that the rapid decline in child mortality and increased life expectancy are the primary reasons for the population growth and one of the greatest achievements of the human species.
“That’s what’s driving most of this,” he said. “Sometimes people forget to see this as a sign of our success.”
The population growth could have wide-ranging impacts on the environment, economy, and health, including maternal and child mortality and lagging government investments in health, education, and infrastructure.
But Wilmoth said the numbers alone aren’t the problem. Currently, with 7.3 billion people on the planet, about a billion of those use the most resources.
“It’s not a simple question of human numbers,” he said. “If you want to diagnose the problems, look at the rate of human consumption.”
Greatest Increase in Africa and Asia
More than half of the global population growth is expected to happen in Africa, with numbers expecting to reach 1.3 billion by 2050. Asia is expected to contribute almost 1 billion to the global population.
“Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding future trends in fertility in Africa, the large number of young people currently on the continent who will reach adulthood in the coming years and have children of their own, ensures that the region will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of the world’s population over the coming decades,” the report states.
Certain areas of Africa — which remain the poorest and least developed in the world — will see five-fold increases, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, and others.
This, experts say, will put excessive strain on currently taxed resources and will create barriers towards equality and overall public health.
“The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries will make it harder for those governments to eradicate poverty and inequality, combat hunger and malnutrition, expand education enrollment and health systems, improve the provision of basic services and implement other elements of a sustainable development agenda to ensure that no one is left behind,” the report states.
China and India remain the largest countries in the world with a combined population of 2.7 billion, but India is expected to surpass China as the most populous country within seven years.
Other countries are expected to see population decreases by as much as 15 percent. This is due, in part, to fertility rates remaining below the needed birthrate to maintain the current population, or 2.1 babies per mother. The birth rate in Europe, as a whole, is currently 1.6 children per woman and is only expected to increase to 1.8 by 2050.