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Would you like to live beyond 100? No, some Japanese say

A girl holding her great-grandmother's hand. Japan has one of the world's most rapidly aging societies.
Yusuke Murata/Getty Images
A girl holding her great-grandmother's hand. Japan has one of the world's most rapidly aging societies.

SEOUL — A new survey has found that most Japanese would, in fact, not rather live until 100 despite what the government advises.

The online survey, commissioned by the Japan Hospice Palliative Care Foundation in Osaka, asked roughly 500 men and 500 women the question: would you like to live beyond 100?

The respondents were in their 20s to 70s. Among them, 72% of male respondents and 84% of female respondents said they don't think they'd like to live that long.

The most common explanation given, at 59%, was that they didn't want to bother their family or others to care for them.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that the foundation was "surprised" that so few people want to live so long, and they're concerned about how Japan will support those facing death.

"As the '100-year-life age' becomes more of a reality, people may have begun to question whether they are really happy with that," a representative of the foundation told Japanese media, according to the report.

Japan has one of the world's most rapidly aging societies. But it is also one of the top five countries with the longest life expectancy at birth.

According to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of centenarians, people aged 100 or older, in Japan reached 90,526 as of Sept., 2022. This represented 72.13 centenarians per 100,000 population. It was also an increase of nearly 4,000 from September the previous year.

Birth rates are slowing in many Asian countries, including China. In Japan, the government estimated that the number of births had dropped below 800,000 last year. This led to prime minister Fumio Kishida to declare that the low birthrate and aging population pose a huge risk to society.

"Japan is standing on the verge of whether we can continue to function as a society," Kishida said in January. "Focusing attention on policies regarding children and child-rearing is an issue that cannot wait and cannot be postponed."

Kishida said at the time that a blueprint for doubling spending on supporting families raising children would be out by June this year.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
Vincent Ni
Vincent Ni is the Asia Editor at NPR, where he leads a team of Asia-based correspondents whose reporting spans from Afghanistan to Japan, and across all NPR platforms.