August 8, 2011

JAPAN: Super-Aging Society Preparing for the Future

CHICAGO, Illinois / University of Illinois / August 8, 2011

Japan is experiencing population aging that is unprecedented in the world. The proportion of people aged 65+ years in the total population is highest in the world: 23% in 2009 (Statistics Bureau, 2010). By 2030, one in every three people will be 65+ years and one in five people 75+ years. Rapid declines in mortality and fertility after World War II accelerated population aging in Japan. Reflecting improvements in health and longevity, life expectancy at birth is highest in the world: 86 for women and 80 for men (2009; World Health Organization, 2011).

Aging is not only an immediate personal issue but also a salient factor in crucial public policies, such as pensions, health, and long-term care.

Naoko Muramatsu and Hiroko Akiyama of the University of Illinois School of Public Health are authors of Japan: Super-Aging Society Preparing for the Future, published in the August 2011 edition of The Gerontologist.
Population pyramid of Japan: 2005 and 2030. Notes: The 2005 data are based on the census. The 2030 data are based on medium estimates. Source: National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

The authors of this paper conclude:

Japan is enjoying the highest life expectancy in the world with relatively low health care costs (7.9% of its gross national product spent on health care compared with 16% in the United States). Under the universal Long-Term Care Insurance System, people aged 65+ years are entitled to receive long-term care if determined to have care needs. Despite this seemingly rosy picture, Japan faces major challenges stemming from simultaneous population aging and population decline. Japan precedes other countries in experiencing a “super-aging” society not only in rural but also in urban communities.

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