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Nation nears milestone number of centenarians

asahi.com The Asahi Shimbun
Wednesday, September 10, 2003


Those aged 100 or beyond have more than doubled in the past 5 years.

More than 20,000 Japanese will be aged 100 or older by the end of this month, twice the number of centenarians living here just five years ago, a report by the welfare ministry said Tuesday.

The number of people at least 100 years old is expected to grow to 20,561, an increase of 2,627 from last year, the ministry said. Of the total, 17,402, or 84.6 percent, are women.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's report is another indication of the rapid growth of the nation's aging population. In 1998, the number of people in the 100-and-over bracket barely exceeded 10,000.

The ministry compiled its longevity list in advance of Respect-for-the-Aged Day, which falls on Sept. 15.

The calculations are based on the number of people who will reach or pass the age of 100 by the end of September.

In 1963, there were 153 people aged 100 or older, and more than 1,000 in that range in 1981. By 1998, the number had passed 10,000, and the total has more than doubled in the past five years.

Life expectancy for Japanese is 85.23 years for women and 78.32 years for men.

This is the first year the life expectancy for women has surpassed 85 years, the ministry reported.

The officially recognized oldest citizen is Kamato Hongo, of Kagoshima Prefecture, who will mark her 116th birthday Sept. 16. She has held the record for five years.

A close second is Yukichi Chuganji, a 114-year-old man from Fukuoka Prefecture, who has held that distinction for four years.

Twenty-six people are at least 110 years old, the report said.

The ratio of centenarians per 100,000 people in the general population was 16.13 nationwide, the report said.

In general, southern prefectures tend to have more centenarians. Okinawa has highest ratio-42.49-followed by Kochi Prefecture with 39.01, Shimane Prefecture with 35.8, and Kagoshima Prefecture with 30.58.

The prefecture with the fewest people over 100 was Saitama, with 7.37 per 100,000.

Before 1990, individual prefectures did not keep track of such statistics.

Based on the most recent population estimates, the number of Japanese centenarians represents about 0.016 percent of the nation's total population.(IHT/Asahi: September 10,2003)



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