DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnad097 ISSN: 0016-9013

Social Sustainability in Aging Populations: A Systematic Literature Review

Kathrin Komp-Leukkunen, Juho Sarasma
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology
  • General Medicine


Background and Objectives

Social sustainability becomes increasingly important in aging populations. Yet, scientific discussions on this topic are still emerging. This study helps to develop these discussions by exploring (1) how social sustainability is understood in studies on aging populations, (2) how this understanding differs across the topics discussed, and (3) how population aging is connected to social sustainability.

Research Design and Methods

This study conducts a systematic literature review using 33 texts obtained from ProQuest, JStor, and (02–03/2022). The inclusion criteria were (1) scientific character and (2) explicit focus on the topics of interest. A thematic analysis was conducted.


The texts use 3 different understandings of social sustainability: one focusing on what makes societies desirable, one focusing on the quality of life of individuals, and one balancing the interests of current and future generations. The first understanding is most prevalent. Which understanding texts choose depends on their topic, perspective, and goals. The texts describe challenges and opportunities for social sustainability in aging populations, with some recommending a general shift in perspective.

Discussion and Implications

Findings provide a clearer and more homogenous understanding of social sustainability for discussions on population aging. Thereby, they facilitate a dialogue between researchers working in this area. Moreover, they help gerontologists increase their contribution to cumulative knowledge building. A limitation is that only texts in English are analyzed. Findings help policymakers and practitioners better understand how to integrate research-based knowledge on social sustainability in their work.

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