Who we are
(Who we are)
In 2017, approximately 757,000 people lived in Suffolk. Compared to England, Suffolk has a higher proportion of people aged 65 and over and a lower proportion of working age people. (3 What is the local picture?)
In 2017, there were 7,676 live births in Suffolk, which is the lowest number of births in the County in more than a decade. (5.1 What causes population change? Births)
In 2017, there were 7,909 deaths recorded in Suffolk, which is the highest number in the last 5 years. As people are generally living longer, and the population ages, the number of deaths is expected to increase. (5.2 What causes population change? Deaths)
Currently, about 1 in 5 people living in Suffolk are aged 65 and over. Over the next 20 years, this is forecast to change, with 1 in 3 Suffolk residents being aged 65 and over, compared to 1 in 4 for England. (4 How is the population changing?)
Population growth since 2011 has been exclusively in older age groups and this is expected to continue, with the number of people aged 65 and over increasing while the proportion aged under 65 falls. (4 How is the population changing?)
- age structure
- inequalities and deprivation
One individual may belong to more than one demographic “group”. Not everyone within the same demographic group will experience the same challenges.
Understanding how a population has changed in the past can help project how a population may appear in the future, whether by complex calculations or simple facts. For example, the “baby boomers” born in the 1960s will be in “older age” by 2041. These projections can then inform future health and care planning.
Some life stages which require higher levels of health care:
- neonatal and infancy
- fertile years for women (support for pregnancy and child birth)
- old age (when multimorbidity increases, healing may be slower and treatments may be palliative rather than curative)
- increased need for social care: one in five people aged 75 to 84 have at least some problems washing or dressing, increasing for people aged 85 and over
- difficulty accessing services, as older people tend to live in more rural areas and may find it difficult to travel
In Suffolk (and England as a whole) the population aged 65 and over is growing more rapidly than the working age population, and faster than the retirement age is increasing.
Population data should be used to improve access to services and reduce inequalities.,  The Equality Act 2010 prohibits unlawful discrimination in the provision of services on the grounds of age, disability (physical or mental, including long-term conditions), gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation (“protected characteristics”). Clinical Commissioning Groups are legally required to reduce inequalities in access to and outcomes of health services. Organisations therefore need to know about these communities and their needs.
NHS England uses the term “inclusion health” to define groups of people who usually have poorer health outcomes, including:
- people who are homeless and rough sleepers
- the Traveller community (including Gypsies and Roma)
- vulnerable migrants (refugees and asylum seekers)
- sex workers
- those undergoing or surviving Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
- those undergoing or surviving human trafficking
- those who define themselves as being part of the recovery movement, both through substance misuse and mental ill health
- the trans / non-binary community
In Suffolk, we may also wish to consider:
- people who are economically disadvantaged
- rural populations
Some of these groups are considered in more detail in the chapter on groups at risk of disadvantage. These groups may be small, and difficult to engage, so may be invisible to commissioners and service providers.
The total population of Suffolk is around 757,000.
You can also view an interactive population dashboard for Suffolk.
Source: Office for National Statistics. Population estimates - local authority based by five year age band. NOMIS - Official Labour Market Statistics
Interactive analysis of estimated population change for England and Wales, by geography, age and sex, from mid-2011 onwards are available from the Office for National Statistics.
Suffolk has a higher percentage of its population aged 65 and over than England (22.9% compared to 18.0%), and a lower proportion of working age people (59.1% compared to 61.3%).
Forest Heath (20.8%) and Ipswich (20.0%) have the greatest percentage of younger people in Suffolk (Figure 1). The percentage of children (under 16) in both areas is above the average for England (19.1%).
Suffolk Coastal (27.0%) and Waveney (26.6%) have the highest percentages of people aged over 65 (England 18.0%).
Ipswich is the only borough or district to have a percentage of people of working age slightly higher than England (Ipswich 63.8%, England 62.8%). 
Age pyramids for Suffolk and its districts/boroughs compared to England (Figure 2) can be created by choosing areas from Figure 2's dropdown boxes. The increase in the proportion of older people is shown by playing changes over time (2016 to 2041).
Source: Office for National Statistics, “Subnational population projections for England: 2016-based (report),” 2018.
At the time of the 2011 Census, 90.8% of Suffolk’s population was White British, compared to 79.8% for England. After White British, the most common ethnicities were Other White (4.4%), Asian (1.8%) and Mixed heritage (1.7%) (Figure 3).
Source: Office for National Statistics. Census 2011 Ethnic group - NOMIS table KS201EW. (2011).
In 2011, the proportion of residents who did not identify as White British was higher in urban areas compared to rural areas. Proportions were higher in Forest Heath, where United States military forces and support staff are stationed with their families (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Map of Suffolk showing the proportion of residents from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic group by lower super output area, 2011
Source: Office for National Statistics. Census 2011 Ethnic group - NOMIS table KS201EW. (2011)
In 2017/18, 89.0% of the Suffolk population were UK nationals, higher than for England (84.4%). People who were not UK nationals were most likely to be nationals of:
- European Union 6.4% (England 5.9%)
- Non-EU European 4.6% (England 9.7%)
- Sub-Saharan African 1.1% (England 2.2%)
In 2017/18, 91.4% of Suffolk residents were born in the UK, compared to 89.9% in England. People living in Suffolk who weren't born in the UK were most likely to have been born in:
- European Union 6.3% (England 6%)
- South East Asia 0.5% (England 0.3%)
- South Asia 0.4% (England 1.2%)
- Sub-Saharan Africa 0.4% (England 0.7%)
A higher proportion of the population are female in England, and in Suffolk.
ONS estimates and projections by sex and broad age band (see Figure 2) show there are more males than females among children (0-15), a difference that is less pronounced among the working age population (16 to 64). Better life expectancy rates for women mean there are more older women (65 and over) than men.
The gap between the number of males and females aged 65 and over is reducing. By 2041, 47.0% of people aged 65 and over in Suffolk will be male, compared to 44.8% in 2008 (46.6% in 2041 and 43.7% in 2008 for England)., , 
There are estimated to be 2,630-7,520 transgender people in Suffolk, that is people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth. This estimate is based on a population prevalence of 0.35%-1.0% as used by the Government Equalities Office. This figure does not include people who identify as non-binary.
In 2017, ONS published estimates for sexual identity in the UK for the first time. These figures suggest 13,000 to 17,000 Suffolk residents are likely to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other (Table 1). Estimates at a lower geography are unreliable and not available for Suffolk.
|%||Confidence interval (CI) +/-||Low est.||High est.|
|Heterosexual or straight||93.0%||0.2||575,917||578,399|
|Gay or lesbian||1.2%||0.1||6,827||8,068|
|Don't know or refuse||4.5%||0.2||26,686||29,168|
* Estimates are considered reasonably precise
Source: Office for National Statistics. Sexual Identity, UK.; 2017
Note: Confidence Intervals (CI) indicate a range of values that are likely to encompass the true value. In the above table, this means 92.8-93.2% of people in England identify as heterosexual or straight. Confidence intervals become larger when smaller samples are used, which is why sexual identity figures for lower geographies are less reliable, and why they were not published for Suffolk.
Older people (65 and older) are more likely to identify as heterosexual or straight (UK 94.8%, CI +/- 0.3%) than younger people (16 - 24) (UK 90.6%, CI +/- 0.9%). As Suffolk has a higher percentage of older people, the estimate is likely to be slightly lower than shown.
3 in 5 (443,632) Suffolk residents identified as Christian in the 2011 Census (60.9%, 59.4% England). The next largest group was people who had “no religion” (29.7%, 24.7% England). The next largest religious group was Muslim, at 0.8% (5.0% England), or fewer than 6,000 people (Figure 5).
Source: Suffolk Observatory / Census
There are estimated to be 22 families living in Suffolk as part of the Vulnerable Person / Children Resettlement Schemes.
There are estimated to be 2,000 refugees living in Suffolk, mostly in Ipswich.
In October 2017, there were 4,040 Ministry of Defence personnel stationed in Suffolk, including 830 civilian staff. This is a fall of 22.2% from October 2012.
Veterans are defined as “those aged 16+ residing in Great Britain who have served at least one day in the UK Armed Forces”. 35,700 veterans were estimated to live in Suffolk in 2016, 5% of the County’s population. The percentage of veterans in Great Britain who are aged 70 and over is significantly higher than for other age bands. This reflects the numbers who served in World War Two or who completed National Service after the war.
There are estimated to be 8,760 US military and civilian personnel employed at RAF Lakenheath & RAF Mildenhall. Plans for the United States Air Force to move out of RAF Mildenhall have been delayed to 2024.
Suffolk’s population grew by 3.7% from 2011 to 2017, less than the growth rate for England (4.7%). This overall growth rate conceals larger changes within age groups (Figure 6). All the growth in Suffolk’s total population was from people aged 65 and over, as the growth in children (0 – 15) was cancelled out by an equal fall in the 16 – 64-year-old population (Figure 6).
Source: Office for National Statistics. Population estimates - local authority based by five year age band 2008/11/17. NOMIS - Official Labour Market Statistics.
The number of people aged 65 and over in Suffolk is projected to grow by 22.9% between mid-2017 and mid-2028 (19.1% England). Growth will be seen in all the districts. The older population will increase at the lowest rate in Ipswich (17.5%), and the highest in Suffolk Coastal (by 37.3%) from 34,717 to 42,676 by mid-2027 (Figure 7)., 
In mid-2017, three local authorities in Suffolk had a population where at least one-quarter of people were estimated to be aged 65 and over (Suffolk Coastal 27.1%, Waveney 26.6%, Babergh 25.7%). By 2027, only Ipswich (18.7%) and Forest Heath (20.7%) will have populations where less than a quarter of people are estimated to be 65 and over. In Suffolk Coastal (31.8%) and Babergh (30.0%), people aged 65 and over will comprise nearly a third of the resident population (Figure 7).
The following interactive, Figure 7, shows how age structure differs by local authority over time.
Source: Office for National Statistics. Overview of the UK Population (November 2018).
In 2019, an estimated 23.6% of Suffolk’s population is aged 65 or more (compared to 18.4% for England). By 2039, the population of residents aged 65 and over will increase by over 40% (42.7%, in line with England 42.8%), while the Suffolk population under 65 will fall by 2.2%, compared to growth in England of 1.6%.
In 20 years, we can expect that 1 in 3 of Suffolk’s residents will be aged 65 or over, compared to 1 in 4 for England (and 1 in 5 in Suffolk now) – with the number of people aged 85 or over in Suffolk increasing from 25,500 to 52,500 (Figure 8, Figure 9).
Source: Office for National Statistics. Subnational Population Projections for England: 2016-Based (Report). 2018
Source: Office for National Statistics. Subnational Population Projections for England: 2016-Based (Report). 2018.
With ongoing advances in technology, healthcare and lifestyles, people in the UK are living longer on average than they might have in the past. However, they are also likely to live more years in poor health, increasing demand on health and social care services.
The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study provides a tool to quantify health loss from hundreds of diseases, injuries, and risk factors, so that health systems can be improved and disparities can be eliminated. To make these results more accessible and useful, a suite of interactive data visualizations is available to analyse the data. The tools include models of years lived with a disability (YLD). Back and neck pain dominate - 17.6% of YLD in Suffolk in 2017 were due to this (Figure 10). [18a]
Over the next 20 to 50 years, fewer and fewer people will have significant housing equity or adequate pension funds, which means that more people are predicted to fall within current means testing limits to fund their retirement / social care needs.
As the population lives longer, there is an increase in its old-age dependency ratio (OADR) - the number of people of State Pension age (those aged 65 years and older) per every 1,000 of the working-age population (those aged 16 to 64 years old). In mid-2017, the OADR of the UK was 289, which is up from 244 in 2007. Without the planned re-balancing of the State Pension age, the UK’s OADR is projected to be 419 by 2041 (Figure 12).
Use the interactive map (Figure 11) to see how local authority-level OADRs and population age structures are projected to change by broad age groups between mid-2016 to mid-2026.
Figure 11: Population age composition by broad age groups and old age dependency ratio for local authorities in England, mid-2016 and mid-2026
Source: Office for National Statistics. Subnational population projections for England: 2016-based (report). (2018).
The increases in OADR coincide with falling fertility rates in England (Figure 12 and Figure 15), which have declined from 1.97 children per woman in 2008 to 1.76 in 2017 (2.04 to 1.84 in Suffolk). So, with fewer births to balance living longer, the overall age structure of the UK has tipped further towards the later-life age groups.
Suffolk authorities (except for Ipswich) have higher OADR than England as a whole. Ratios are particularly high for Suffolk Coastal and Babergh (Figure 12). This is likely to increase demand for health and care services.
Source: Office for National Statistics. Population of State Pension age and working age, and old age dependency ratios, for local authorities and regions in England (2016)
The Office for National Statistics produces projections of population based on natural change (births and deaths), and migration (both into and out of the area) within the UK as well as international migration.
ONS project that there will be slightly more deaths than births in Suffolk to 2026, so that natural change will reduce the population by 1,800. Forest Heath and Ipswich are the only two districts/boroughs in Suffolk that will see an increase from natural change (of 4,400 and 6,700); St Edmundsbury’s natural change is almost balanced (projected as a fall of less than 100).
Figure 13 is an interactive tool that illustrates how the populations of each local authority in England are projected to change. Choose a local authority to see total population change, natural change, net international migration and net within UK migration over the 10 years to mid-2026.
Source: Office for National Statistics. Subnational population projections for England: 2016-based (report). (2018).
There were 7,676 live births in Suffolk in 2017, a decrease of 2.4% from 2016 and the lowest number of live births since 2006. England also had the lowest number of live births since 2006, with a decrease of 2.5% since 2016 (Figure 14).
Source: Office for National Statistics. Live births, 2017
Suffolk’s total fertility rate or TFR (the average number of live children that a group of women would bear if they experienced the age-specific fertility rates of the calendar year throughout their childbearing lifespan) continues to be higher than the England rate. The rate for England declined for the fifth consecutive year, and there has been a general downward trend in Suffolk since 2010 (Figure 15).
Source: Office for National Statistics. Births in England and Wales: 2017; 2018
Variation between England and local authority areas may be caused by variations in the composition of the population and social, economic and cultural differences. Most importantly, fertility rates for some local authorities are based on relatively small populations – such calculations are often subject to random fluctuations and are consequently less robust. See the embedded map (Figure 16) below for comparisons between the TFR for Suffolk boroughs and districts compared to England as a whole.
This interactive map shows the change over time in the TFR by district or borough council, 2001 to 2017. In 2017, the East was the region of England with the highest TFR (1.86 children per woman).
Source: Office for National Statistics. Births in England and Wales: 2017. 2018.
In 2017, 1 in 5 (20.3%) of 2017 births in Suffolk were to mothers born outside the UK (1,554 out of 7,674). This was a slight fall on 2016 (21.2%) and is much lower than England (29.2%). The highest percentage of births to mothers born outside the UK were in Forest Heath (42.6%) and Ipswich (30.2%) (Figure 17).
Figure 17: Proportion of babies born to mothers born outside the UK by district/borough of usual residence, 2017
Source: Office for National Statistics. Live births
Forest Heath figures are affected by the presence of United States military bases: 24% of the District’s births to non-UK mothers were to mothers from the “rest of world”, and more than a quarter (27%) of the District’s total live births were to mothers living in the two wards that cover RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, where US Forces and support staff are stationed.
There were 7,909 deaths recorded in Suffolk in 2017, a 4.5% increase from 2016 (1.6% increase for England) and the highest annual number for the past 5 years. England also recorded the highest number of deaths for five years.
The number of deaths is affected by the size and age structure of the population. As people are tending to live longer, the population is increasing in both size and age over time, therefore the number of deaths is expected to increase.
Age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) allow for differences in the age structure of populations so that valid comparisons can be made between geographic areas, over time and between sexes. They are usually expressed as the number of deaths per 100,000 population. ASMRs increased for both sexes in 2017; by 1.5% for males and 2.0% for females. This is against a decrease in England of 0.3% for males and 0.1% for females. Compared to England, a higher proportion of Suffolk residents die aged over 85 which is consistent with the higher life expectancy in Suffolk – see population pyramid (Figure 2).
Both the number of deaths and age-specific mortality rates for people aged 90 years and over increased in 2017, by 8.5% (4.4% England) and 6.5% (3.1% England) respectively (Figure 18).
Source: Office for National Statistics. (2018). Mortality statistics - age.
In 2017, the England infant mortality rate (deaths in children aged under one year) increased for the first time in five years to 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. In contrast, Suffolk’s infant mortality rate in 2017 was the lowest it has been for five years, at 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. The Suffolk figures are based on relatively small numbers, so may be more liable to fluctuations.
Cancers, circulatory diseases and respiratory diseases remained the top 3 causes of death in England and in Suffolk in 2017 (Figure 19). Rates for cancer decreased (4.8% England, 1.2% Suffolk), while rates for respiratory diseases increased in both areas (0.2% England, 5.7% Suffolk). Rates for mental and behavioural disorders, and diseases of the nervous system increased by 1.6% (3.3% England) and 14.4% (7.2% England) respectively.
Certain causes of death affect particular age groups - for example, accidents cause 17.9% of deaths among under 45s, but only 1.7% of deaths in the 65-74 and 75-84 age bands. Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are found in older age groups, with the impact increasing by age band (3.5% deaths in 65-74 year olds, rising to 21.0% of people 85+) (Figure 19).
Source: NHS Digital. Primary Care Mortality Database.
Variation in mortality rates between different local areas reflects differences in income, socio-economic status and health behaviour. Increased mortality rates for many causes of death have long been associated with higher levels of deprivation: Waveney and Ipswich are ranked the two most deprived local authorities in Suffolk.
In 2017, the highest ASMR (age standardised mortality rate, per 100,000 population) rates in Suffolk were found in Waveney (980.2 per 100,000) and Ipswich (979.5 per 100,000) (Figure 20) . This was an increase from 2016 of 4.6% (Waveney) and 4.8% (Ipswich). Both were above the England rate (958.8) and the Suffolk rate (885.9).
The tool below (Figure 20) is an interactive map showing the change in mortality rates 2001 to 2017 at district / borough level (click on the tabs to select a sex, click on the map to select an area, then press play to see how ASMR has changed over time compared to England and Wales).
Figure 20: Age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) by local authority districts, 2001 to 2017, England and Wales
Because births and deaths are relatively balanced in Suffolk, most of the population change to 2026 will be as a result of internal migration, that is movement of people within the UK (and especially movement within England) (Figure 21).
Source: Office for National Statistics. Population projections incorporating births, deaths and migration for regions and local authorities: Table 5.
In 2011, there were 310,745 households in Suffolk. Suffolk has a higher percentage of one family households than England, as well as a higher proportion of people living as couples (with or without children) (Figure 22).
61.1% of Suffolk households are in urban areas, compared to 82.3% for England as a whole.
Source: Office for National Statistics. KS105EW (Household composition). NOMIS - Official Labour Market Statistics.
At the time of the 2011 Census, roughly a quarter of Suffolk households (25.7%, 26.5% for England) had dependent children, and just under a third (29.0% compared to 30.2%) were single-person households. By 2041 this is projected to fall to a fifth of households with dependent children (21.4%, 24.7% England), with a third (32.7%, 33.1% England) expected to be one-person households., 
Source: Office for National Statistics. KS105EW (Household composition). NOMIS - Official Labour Market Statistics.
The number of households across Suffolk are forecast to increase by 22% over the next 20 years, double the rate of population growth, as changes in the demographic structure of the population significantly change household composition (Figure 23). The largest proportional increases are forecast to be among singles and shared households (couples with other adults and ‘other’ household types) (Figure 24). Rising private rent costs will likely affect the formation of younger households: by 2030, 40% or 132,000 of all under-40s in Suffolk are forecast to be living back at home with parents (vs. 14% today). 
Source: Office for National Statistics. Household Projections for England; 2018.
At the time of the 2011 Census, a quarter (24.8%, 20.7% England) of Suffolk households were occupied only by people aged 65 and over. Forecasts predict a significant shift in the proportion of older households with a greater number of couples aged 65 to 85 (and singles at age 85+). By 2041, this is projected to be 45.4% (37.2% England). In Babergh and Suffolk Coastal, it is projected that over half (50.4%, 52.7% respectively) of all households will be occupied by people aged 65 and over.
Between 2016 and 2041, average household size is projected to fall across Suffolk (2.29 to 2.14) and England (2.37 to 2.26). The smallest household sizes will be found in the districts with the highest percentage of households occupied by people aged 65 and over (Figure 25). This reflects national findings from the 2011 Census, that “very high levels of age 65 and over living alone in the coastal areas of England and Wales are apparent, reflecting the high concentrations of older people living in these locations.”
Source: Office for National Statistics. Household Projections for England; 2018.
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