ROME (Reuters) - The number of people aged over 100 in Italy hit a record high last year, the national statistics office said on Friday, as the average age of the population grows at a faster pace than its European Union peers.
In its annual report, ISTAT said the share of the population aged over 100 had tripled since the beginning of the century and totalled almost 22,000 people as of January this year, most of them women.
At the other end of the age range, the figures showed births declined to a historic low of 393,000 in 2022, the lowest since Italian unification more than 150 years ago.
The country's population has steadily spiralled down since 2014, and supporting and caring for growing numbers of elderly people is one of the most pressing challenges that Italy faces.
The average age in Italy increased to 46.4 years from 45.7 years between early 2020 and 2023, ISTAT noted.
The statistics institute expects the population over the age of 80 to increase by 35% from the year 2021 to exceed 6 million in 2041.
(Reporting by Federica Urso; Editing by Keith Weir)