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Japan's overall mortality rate falls for first time in 11 years

Japan's overall mortality rate falls for first time in 11 years

TOKYO — The number of people who died in Japan in 2020 fell 0.7% from the previous year to 1,384,544, marking the first decrease in 11 years, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced Monday in its interim vital statistics report.

This decrease may have been influenced by precautionary behavioral changes, such as handwashing and mask-wearing, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From January to September 2020, there was an overall decline in deaths from influenza, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

The preliminary report suggests a break from recent years. As Japan’s society continued to “gray,” the number of deaths had been increasing by roughly 20,000 each year.

New marriages also decreased sharply. Only 537,583 couples tied the knot in 2020, or 12.7% less than the previous year, a nuptial plunge that is thought to reflect the large number of weddings that were postponed as a result of the coronavirus.

This decline in marriages is expected to further push down Japan’s birthrate in and after 2021. According to the interim report, the number of births in 2020 fell 2.9% to 872,683, marking the lowest birthrate on record.

As the interim tally includes data for foreign residents in Japan and Japanese nationals living abroad, the finalized figures will be even lower when narrowed down to Japanese citizens in Japan.

The ministry is scheduled to announce its finalized report in September.