Effects of mortality decline on aspects of aging in Japan

Shigesato Takahashi, University of Pennsylvania


Since the 1950s, Japan's life expectancy increased at a pace which has warranted a special attention. This shift in mortality rates has had an immense impact on this "aging" society in such areas as population age structure, people's life cycles and life courses, and the distribution of the population by marital status. After discussion of the factors responsible for the Japanese mortality decline, this dissertation examines the impact of the mortality change on these variables. We examine the period of 1975 through 1990 to determine the extent to which improved mortality contributed to the increase of the aged population. It is demonstrated that the mortality reduction was far more important than changes in fertility for the aging in Japan. The effects of changing demographic variables like mortality and marriage rates upon life cycles were examined. It is shown that, while improved mortality greatly lengthened the time that people spend in marriage, this was counteracted producing only a small increase in the average length of married life. It is noted that a greater variety of life courses has emerged. More specifically, gender difference in marriage age gives rise to a consistently longer average period of widowhood among women. Gender differences in life expectancy also contribute to a lengthening in the period of widowhood. The improvement of overall mortality will be driven by mortality improvement among the aged, and, as the gender difference in mortality arises from the middle age and aged groups, there will arise a growing gender imbalance in the marital state populations. This is to say that the disproportionately large number of women in Japan's aged population will increase even further in the future. From this we can state that it is imperative to advance health policies to eliminate the gender difference in mortality rates, as well as health and welfare policies to help aged married couples to live together longer.

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Recommended Citation

Takahashi, Shigesato, "Effects of mortality decline on aspects of aging in Japan" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9413917.