I’m surrounded by old people

We have something new! Each week, Lisa will publish a new chart or map here and talk about her chart choices.

Let’s talk about age. Age demographics give me great joy (just look at population pyramids. They’re amazing!), so I wikiprocrastinate my way sometimes through articles and lists of life expectancy and other delicates. And there I was, this morning, looking at a list of countries ranked by their median age – and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I decided to make a chart out of it, so that my eyes can get used to that shocking fact:

Germany has a median age of 46.8 years, which means that half of the population is younger than 46.8 years, and half of the population is older than that. Germany! The country I live in! So old! I had no idea! I also had no idea that the citizens of the United States are almost ten years younger than the ones from Europe. The US really is a young country.

Chart choices

I decided to use a dot plot for this chart. I could have used a bar chart, but then my y-axis needed to start at zero and the differences were barely observable. I did make good experiences with using dot plots for visualizing age.

The most important choice in this chart: In addition to the three oldest countries, I showed further countries and regions to set the new knowledge in context. Because my chart is in English, it’s likely that people from the UK, the US, Australia or New Zealand will see it. I think it’s just nice to make sure they find themselves on the chart. And I included the median age of the World, to give a hint that the median age of all the shown countries is exceptionally high. There are tons of countries with a median age lower than 20 years (e.g., Zambia: 16.7 years).

I also chose to extend the information about the median age of the whole population with the median age of women and men separately. I did that for several reasons:

  • to introduce some differentiation. It’s unfair to put all people in the same box (“you’re 47 years old!” — “But I’m actually…” – “47 YEARS! ALL OF YOU!”).
  • to make the chart more interesting for people who want to know more. The gender gap is not the focus of the chart, but people who are interested in the topic will be thankful for the extra information. It makes the chart interesting for further exploration. Readers can find out, for example, that men in the UK have the same median age as women in the US.
  • because it looks better. Like little planets revolving around the sun; or planes from the front.

Next week, we’ll have a closer look at Germany. Have a good week!