The estimated number of people aged 65 or older in Japan stood at a record high of 36.4 million as of Wednesday, an increase of 220,000 from a year before, the internal affairs ministry said Sunday.
The share of those aged adults in the nation’s total population rose to a record 29.1%, the highest among 201 countries and regions across the world.
Older men totaled 15.83 million, or 26% of the total male population. There were 20.57 million elderly women, or 32% of the female population.
The ministry released the data ahead of Respect for the Aged Day on Monday, a national holiday.
In Japan, the share of aged people has been rising since 1950. The figure is expected to rise to as high as 35.3% in 2040 when the so-called second baby-boomer generation, or people born in the early 1970s, reaches the age of 65 or older, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
In Japan, a nation that has long struggled with one of the highest suicide rates in the world, the emotional strain is manifesting itself in a disturbing trend. For the first time in a little over a decade, the number of those who took their own lives last year exceeded the previous year, reversing years of work to curb a stubbornly high number of self-inflicted deaths.
According to the health ministry’s preliminary data, 20,919 people died by suicide in 2020, up 3.7% from 2019, compared with 3,459 coronavirus-related deaths in the same period.
While men in Japan are typically more likely to die by suicide, last year saw the number of women killing themselves grow by 885 to 6,976, while suicides among men fell slightly. Meanwhile, figures for those in their 20s and those age 19 or younger grew by 17% and 14%, respectively, according to a tally by the Nikkei business daily, providing insight into which groups are the most vulnerable.