Population Growth and Trends
As of October 1, 2006, Japan's population was 127.77 million (62.33 million males, 65.44 million females), an increase of 10,000 over the previous year.
Japan has one of the highest average life expectancies in the world, and the aging of the population is proceeding at a rapid rate. The ratio of people aged 65 and over to the whole population more than doubled from 7.1% in 1970 to 20.8% in 2006.
The number of people aged under 15 dropped to a new postwar record low of 17.44 million as of October 1, 2006, a decrease of 120,000 from 2005. The proportion of those under 15 in the total population dropped to 13.6%.
Causes of Death
For a few years immediately after World War II, tuberculosis was the largest cause of death in Japan, followed by cerebral hemorrhage. Through the government antituberculosis campaign, the number of tuberculosis cases sharply decreased in the 1950s, while the cancer mortality rate has increased by leaps and bounds in the past few decades. In 1955 cancer accounted for only 11.2% of all causes of death. In 1981, however, it became the first cause, replacing cerebral hemorrhage, and has been on a steady rise since that time. In 2005 cancer caused 325,941 deaths, accounting for 30.1% of the total of 1,083,796. Heart disease and cerebral hemorrhage occupied second and third places, accounting for 16.0% and 12.3%, respectively. The major factor in the large increase in cancer is the aging of the Japanese population; as people age, they are more prone to contract cancer, and the proportion of the aged is expanding.
According to the National Police Agency, the number of suicides reached 32,552 in 2005. The figure was up 0.7% from the previous year. Of the total 10,360 suicides with a suicide note, 4,145 cases, or 40.0% of the total, were caused by hardship from sickness. Financial difficulties accounted for 31.4%, or 3,255 cases, a decrease of 5.3% from the previous year.
Marriage and Divorce
After peaking in 1971, Japan's marriage rate fell to 5.7 marriages per 1,000 persons in 2005. The average age of first marriage rose steadily during the same period, from 26.8 for men and 24.2 for women in 1971 to 29.8 for men and 28.0 for women in 2005. Reflecting the fact that more women are pursuing higher education and entering the workforce, the percentage of women in their twenties and early thirties who are unmarried is rising, a trend that is fueling the decline in the marriage rate. Meanwhile, Japan's divorce rate rose from 0.74 per 1,000 persons in 1960 to 2.30 in 2002, then declined to 2.08 in 2005.
As of June 2005, there were 47.0 million households in Japan, an increase of 15.4% over 1995. With the number of households growing faster than the population, the average number of persons per household is estimated to fall from 2.68 in 2005 to 2.37 by 2025.
From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Japan experienced a nuclearization of families, but since 1985 there has been a more prominent increase in the number of singlemember households. The share of nuclear families in the total number of households was 59.2% in 2005, while single-member households accounted for 24.6% of the total. The number of households consisting of only elderly people has also been on the rise, reaching 17.7% of the total in 2005.
Courtesy of Foreign Press Center Japan