Professor Sarah Harper CBE
Director and Clore Professor of Gerontology
MA Cantab; DPhil Oxon, Fellow, University College
Sarah is Clore Professor of Gerontology at the University of Oxford, a Fellow at University College, and Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing. Sarah was appointed a CBE for services to Demography in 2018.
Sarah served on the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, which advises the UK Prime Minister on the scientific evidence for strategic policies and frameworks and was the Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Currently Sarah is Vice-Chair of the UK Research Integrity Office, a Trustee of Health Data Research UK, a Governor of the Pensions Policy Institute, and a Patron of CHASE Africa.
Sarah chaired the UK government’s Foresight Review on Ageing Populations (2014-2016) and the Evaluation Board of the UN Active Ageing Index, and advised on the Industrial Strategy Healthy Ageing Challenge. She served on the Advisory Board, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).
Sarah is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Royal Anthropology Institute and holds a Royal Society for Public Health Arts and Health Research Award for her research.
Sarah has a background in anthropology and population studies and her early research focused on migration and the social implications of demographic change, using a mixed methods approach. Her current research on demographic change addresses two broad questions: the implications of falling fertility and increasing life expectancy, and the interaction of population change with the environment.
In terms of falling fertility and increasing life expectancy, Harper’s major research achievements have concerned the role of life course factors in healthy ageing, by exploring how social and economic drivers influence health and well-being, with a particular emphasis on life transitions. In the area of well being and later life she has explored the impact of work-life balance on health in later life within Europe.
A second research contribution is the analysis of eldercare in China, considering the impact of the changing dynamics of the family on physical and mental health of older adults in both rural and urban areas. This has revealed how cultural perceptions of gendered care impact upon subjective well-being, while morbidity and mortality rates are lower under modern gender dynamics.
A third strong research area has been on fertility. Combining anthropological and quantitative analysis of the DHS, her research has revealed that Ideal Family Size is remaining high in sub-Sahara despite education of girls.
Sarah’s work on population and environment has recently addressed population change in Vietnam and Myanmar and the impact of this on agricultural production, population growth and food security, and the connection between environmental awareness and fertility. Sarah served on the Scientific Advisory Board of Natural England, on the Royal Society’s Working Group on Population and Environment, and the Wellcome Trust Health Consequences of Population Change Panel. She was a member of the Royal Society Working Group on People and the Planet, and on Biodiversity.
Her recent books include How Population Change will Transform our World (Oxford University Press 2016/2019), Ageing Societies: risk and resilience (Routledge forthcoming), and Global Ageing (Elgar forthcoming). Sarah is working on her next book for Cambridge University Press on Population and Environmental Change. Sarah is the founding editor of the Journal of Population Ageing and editor of the Handbook of Ageing and Public Policy (Elgar 2014/revised 2024).
Following her doctoral work in population studies at Oxford, Sarah trained with the BBC as a News and Current Affairs Reporter and Producer, working in both TV and Radio for BBC News and BBC News Night. After leaving the BBC she took up a lectureship at the University of London, and subsequently moved to the USA where she was professor in public policy at the University of Chicago. On returning to the University of Oxford she founded the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing with funding from the US National Institutes of Health.
Throughout her academic career, Sarah has combined academic research with external professional commitments. She worked with the Office of the Prime Minister and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on the Government Ageing Strategy, with the Department of Children, Schools and Families, developing their Horizons Programme, and with the UK Government Office of Science for their Demography Review. and on the World Economic Forum, Global Agenda Council on Ageing Societies. She was Chair of HSBC’s Global Ageing Forum and is a former Trustee of Third Age Employment Network.
Internationally, Sarah represented the UK on the European Science Academies’ Demographic Change in Europe Panel, served on the Council of Advisors of Population Europe, as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Vienna Institute of Demography at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and on the Advisory Board of the World Demographic Association. Sarah represents Oxford on the Ageing and Demography Collaboration of the International Association of Research Universities.
Sarah was the first holder of the International Chair in Old Age Financial Security, at the University of Malaya (2009-10) and was an Advisor to the Malaysian Government, Advisor to the Singapore Government’s Third Age Council and as a Specialist Advisor for the European Commission Demographic Change Programme. She served as an International Advisor to the Swedish Academy, European Advisor to the MacArthur Foundation, Advisor on Ageing Issues to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon and was Global Advisor on Ageing Issues for HSBC plc.
Alongside keynotes at academic conferences, Sarah has spoken at World Economic Forums in China and Australia, presented various TED and TED linked talks and presented her work at Nobel Prize Dialogues in Stockholm, Seoul, Tokyo and Madrid. Sarah was invited to give the Oxford-London Lecture on the subject of population change.
Current PhD students
Luca Chiaverini: Evaluating scenarios of biodiversity conservation in Southeast Asia under future land-use and socio-economic changes.
Graduated PhD Students
Burcu Ozdemir: (2017) Intergenerational Solidarity between Adult Children and Elderly Parents in Turkey.
Francesca Ghillani: (2017) Transnational communities.
Patricia O'Neill: (2014) The changing Roles and Status of Chinese daughters
Jaco Hoffman: (2012) The generational contract in Contemporary South Africa: configurations and reconfigurations in the context of HIV/AIDS
Chul Hoi Koo (2010): Reinforcement of income Inequality in Later Life: a case study of Korea (DPhil, Oxon)
Koichi Mikami (2010): Technology as a Social Process: Cultural Theory Approach to Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine in the UK and Japan (DPhil, Oxon)
Samir K. Sinha (2008): The Sociology of Interprofessional Relations: A Case Study of English Care Trusts (DPhil, Oxon)
Hugh Jones (1995): Community Care for Elderly People (Ph.D, London)
T Bristow (1993): Environmental Perception and Social Change, (Ph.D, London)
Links to publicly accessible reports; academic publications available on request.
- Demographic Trends in the Asia-Pacific Region: Converging but Different Population Challenges
- Changing Chinese Family and Implications for Elder Care
- The Implications of Climate Change for the Health of Older Adults
- Ageing Societies are a Triumph
- Age Discrimination and older workers: is self-employment a response to ageism
- Shepherding Sub-Saharan Africa's Wildlife Through Peak Anthropogenic Pressure Toward a Green Anthropocene
- The impact of son or daughter care on Chinese older adults' mental health
- Editorial: Forty Years of Global Action on Ageing: What Has Been Achieved?
- Son or Daughter Care in Relation to Self-Reported Health Outcomes for Older Adults in China
- PARO as a Biofeedback Medical Device for Mental Health in the COVID-19 Era
- The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Global Population Ageing
- Societal Need for Interdisciplinary Ageing Research: IARU-ALH Position Statement
- The COVID-19 Pandemic and Older Adults: Institutionalised Ageism or Pragmatic Policy?
- Global Ageing: Ensuring a Resilient Future
- Employment trajectories and health: cohort differences in English and French women
- A Systematic Review of Physical and Psychological Health and Wellbeing of Older Women in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Global Risks and the Resilience of Future Health Care Systems
- The Convergence of Population Ageing with Climate Change
- Living Longer within Ageing Societies
- DEVELOPING THE INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY CHALLENGE FUND HEALTHY AGEING (ISCFHA): a technologically enabled ecosystem for healthy ageing.
- Educational differentials in the realisation of fertility intentions: Is sub-Saharan Africa different?
- Achieving Replacement-Level Fertility
- Extreme Ageing
- The Impact of Life Course Employment and Domestic Duties on the Well-Being of Retired Women and the Social Protection Systems That Frame This
- Transnational mobility and cross-border family life-cycles of Italian migrants: A century of Welsh Italian migration
- Population Horizons Volume 15, Issue 2, 2018
- Lengthening of Life: the importance of context and life course
- Demography: A Very Short Introduction
- The Qualitative Stage of Building Bayesian Belief Networks in a Focus Group Setting
- The Ageing of Myanmar’s Farmer Population
- Building Evidence for Active Ageing Policies: Active Ageing Index and its Potential
- As the World Ages: When Older Populations Become the Majority
- The Reformation of Age and Ageing
- Allongement de la vie et transformations des familles : implications pour les politiques publiques.
- Population Ageing in South-East Asia
- Global Ageing
- Population, Technological and Environmental Change
- Longevity, Politics and Science – Moving from the Outcomes to Understanding the Process
- Critical Readings on Ageing in Southeast Asia (2 vols)
- Making the UK more Resilient to Age-Structural Change and Longevity: Translating Academic Evidence into Policy
- The Important Role of Migration for an Ageing Nation
- Future of an Ageing Population
- How Population Change Will Transform Our World
- Aging Populations and Management: From the Editors
- Migration and Ageing Societies
- Conceptualising Social Policy for the Twenty-first-century Demography.
- Critical Readings on Ageing in East Asia
- International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy
- Is the Planet Full?
- Population Ageing in East Asia
- Economic and social implications of aging societies
- The Opportunity for “Design” to Influence the Ageing Process Itself
- Achieving Replacement Level Fertility
- Achieving replacement level fertility | World Resources Institute
- Dawning of a New Age for Longitudinal Cohort Data
- Implications of 20th Century policy models for 21st Century demography
- Population - Environment Interactions: European migration, population composition and climate change
- Identity and Demographic Change
- Demographic and Environmental Transitions
- People and the Planet
- Environment, migration and the European demographic deficit
- Sociology of normal ageing
- Inequalities in access to education: failing to provide skills-building and empowerment to girls
- Age structural change and the demographic transition
- Giants of the 21st Century: Longevity and Disability
- Health and well-being in older workers: Capacity change with age
- Environment, Migration and the Demographic Deficit
- Demographic Transition: Positioning the Age-structural Change Perspective
- Aging Europe’s Demographic Destiny: Framing the Challenges Ahead
- Demographic transition and the demographic deficit: rethinking intergenerational equity.
- Living Longer and prospering?
- Demographic challenges and social security. Societal challenges and the capacity to adapt: Social Security in an ageing world.
- The capacity of social security and health care institutions to adapt to an ageing world
- Grandparenting in Europe
- Grandmothers as Replacement Parents and Partners: The Role of Grandmotherhood in Single Parent Families
- Social Security in an Ageing World: Adapting to Demographic Challenges
- Developing a Social Security System for Malaysia.
- People and the Planet: The Role of Global Population in Sustainable Development
- Social Security in an Ageing World
- Productive ageing: what do we know?
- Understanding Longevity
- The Future of Retirement
- Redefining Retirement in the Light of Increasing Retirement
- Review of Longevity Trends in the United Kingdom to 2025 and Beyond
- The Impact of the out-migration of female care workers on informal family care in Nigeria and Bulgaria
- The Demographic Challenge
- Working in Later Life: from yesterday’s “older worker” to tomorrow’s “key talent
- An Upper Limit to Human Longevity?
- GLAS Research Reports: Some descriptive findings from the Global Ageing Survey (GLAS). Investing in Later Life
- Ageing in Asia
- Introducing the Journal of Population Ageing
- Sociological Approaches to Age and Ageing
- The Future of Retirement, 2007
- Youth - A Scare Commodity within an Ageing World
- GLAS Research Reports: Ageing and later life. The Americas
- GLAS Research Reports: Ageing and later life. United Kingdom and Europe
- Future of Retirement: The New Old Age. HSBC Global Ageing Survey
- Mature Societies: planning for our future selves
- The Future of Retirement, 2006
- Asia's Position in the New Global Demography
- I am not sure you should be talking to me - the Central Office of Information Research Initiative: Communicating with older people.
- Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities
- Ageing Horizons Issue 5, 2006: Ageing workforces
- Late life work, retirement and social security for European women
- Addressing the implications of Global Ageing
- The ageing of family life transitions.
- Ageing Repositioned: Singapore in the New Global Demography
- The Status Quo of Foreign Workers in the Health and Social Care Sector in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands
- Understanding Grandparenthood
- The Puzzle of Retirement and Early Retirement
- Examples of International Case Law on Age Discrimination in Employment
- Family Care, Independent Living and Ethnicity
- Gerontology at the University of Keele: from Adult Education to Institute of Ageing
- A profile of Help the Aged
- Age Concern: Institute of Gerontology London
- The implications of ageing societies
- Families in Ageing Societies: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach
- Foreign Workers in the Health and Social Care Sector in the United Kingdom.
- The move to self-employment and SMEs among older workers
- The University of Sheffield: 50 years of Gerontological Research
- A Lifetime in Ageing: Profile of Sally Greengross
- Changing Families as European Societies Age
- Ageing Research at Oxford
- Understanding the implications of population ageing for mid-life women
- A Lifetime in Ageing – a Profile of Bleddyn Davies
- Changing Families as Societies Age
- Invited submission to House of Lords
- Independent Living in Later Life
- Active Ageing, Social Inclusion and Independence: UK, UN and European Policy Development
- Invited submission to consultation on Pensions Green Paper
- Active Ageing, Social Inclusion and Independence: Perspectives from Europe
- Grandparents coming of age
- Ageing 2000—questions for the 21st century
- A Time to Decide
- Over Use of Emergency Care / Under Use of Primary Care: Chicago’s Elderly African American Populations
- The Health and Welfare of African – American Older Women living in Chicago
- Book Review: The Body in Everyday Life
- The Nuffield Review of Ageing
- The Royal Commission on Long Term Care
- Book Review: Poetics and Politics of Tuareg Aging: Life Course and Personal Destiny in Niger
- The Funding of Social Science and Related Research into Ageing and Later Life: a Review of Research Councils
- Critical Approaches to Ageing and Later Life
- Constructing later life, constructing the body some thoughts from feminist theory
- Contesting later life
- Book Review: Feminism, Breasts, and Breastfeeding
- The use of emergency care by Chicago’s elderly African American population
- Book Review: Space, Place and Gender
- The greening of rural discourse
- Book Review: Full circles – Geographies of Women over the Life Course
- The Greening of Rural Policy
- Informal Respite Care: perspectives from the UK and USA
- Ageing in rural society
- Book Review: The Coming of Age in Europe
- The use of hospitals for informal respite care
- European Behavioural and Social Science Research Section of the International Association of Gerontology
- Welsh Affairs and Community Care
- The people and culture of China
- Meeting the media midway
- Caring for China's Ageing Population: The Residential Option — A Case Study of Shanghai.
- Book Review: The English rural community
- Eurolink Age – an European network concerned with older people and issues of ageing
- Super-ageing society
- Book Review: The Future of Low Birth-Rate Populations
- Book Review: Counterurbanization in England and Wales
- People moving to the countryside: case studies of decision making
- Issues in comparative gerontology: perspectives from Australia and the UK
- International Ageing
- The impact of elderly migration on rural society
- Book Review: Population and Development Planning in China
- Wives, Husbands, and Daughters Caring for Institutionalized and Noninstitutionalized Dementia Patients: Toward a Model of Caregiver Burden.
- The emergence and consolidation of the retirement tradition in post-war Britain.
- Ageing in Shanghai
- The development of residential homes for the aged in China
- The British rural community; an overview of perspective
- Settlement, housing and population in the English rural-urban interface
- Book Review: Environmental aesthetics
- The social stratification of rural settlements
- The older worker in post-war Britain
- The consolidation of old age as a phase of life (1945-65)
- The impact of the retirement debate on post-war retirement trends.
- Ageing in urban China: case studies from Shanghai and Beijing
- Family networks and community supports for the elderly: some British perspectives
- Book Review: Rural Psychology
- Book Review - The Elderly in Victoria: An Electronic Social Atlas
- Perspectives on research and practice with elderly people in rural areas
- Initiatives in education and training: ageing societies – teaching gerontology to undergraduate.
- Characteristics of caregivers of senile dementia patients
- Relationship and residence: implications for the care of demented elderly
- The rural-urban interface in England: a framework of analysis
- A humanistic approach to the study of rural populations
- The kinship network of the rural aged: a comparison of the indigenous elderly and the retired immigrant
- Symbolic interactionism and images of the community.
- British rural settlement in the hinterland of conurbations: a classification.
- Some correlates of burden of the carers of senile dementia patients
- The kinship network of the rural aged
- Caring for Alzheimer’s patients at home
- The social construction of old age in post-war Britain