On these Japanese lifespans

That was before the police found the body of a man thought to be one of Japan’s oldest, at 111 years, mummified in his bed, dead for more than three decades. His daughter, now 81, hid his death to continue collecting his monthly pension payments, the police said.

Alarmed, local governments began sending teams to check on other elderly residents. What they found so far has been anything but encouraging.

A woman thought to be Tokyo’s oldest, who would be 113, was last seen in the 1980s. Another woman, who would be the oldest in the world at 125, is also missing, and probably has been for a long time. When city officials tried to visit her at her registered address, they discovered that the site had been turned into a city park, in 1981.

To date, the authorities have been unable to find more than 281 Japanese who had been listed in records as 100 years old or older. Facing a growing public outcry, the country’s health minister, Akira Nagatsuma, said officials would meet with every person listed as 110 or older to verify that they are alive; Tokyo officials made the same promise for the 3,000 or so residents listed as 100 and up.

The effect might be large enough (but probably isn\’t) to change life expectancy figures for the country as a whole.

However, there\’s something else here as well: World Bank, WHO etc figures on life spans are created from the figures that governments themselves provide. So if governmetns are mismeasuring life spans, the international figures are also incorrect.

Which brings me to the subject of Cuba. They really might have the life spans they say they do: but given that they\’re based upon figures that the Cuban Government itself provides, can we be sure about that?

And is there any way to check?

10 comments on “On these Japanese lifespans

  1. I have actually seen posters on CiF pointing this basic fact about Cuba out. Not to general positive acclaim. I have tried to do a little of this in China – a random sample of the population ought to show whether or not they share the same life expectancy.

  2. “The effect might be large enough (but probably isn’t)”

    Let’s see.

    The specific examples given seem to imply about a 30 year misrepresentation of life expectancy, but assume that this may come down slightly as more are found – say to 25 years. Also, assume that of the approx. 300 cases found so far there are really around 1,000 in total. Some fairly heroic estimating going on there but it should be enough to get us to within an order of magnitude or two.

    So we’re talking about around 25,000 man years of life expectancy, divided by the approximate population of Japan (125 million) gives us: 0.0002 years of the life expectancy, i.e. around 1 hour 45 minutes.

    But yeah, I’d like to see the figures for Cuba…

  3. “approx. 300 cases found so far ”

    Based the known facts so far, I too doubt any meaningful impact on the reported life expectancy. But – at the same time Tim’s speculation that “if governments are mismeasuring life spans, the international figures are also incorrect” is absolutely relevant.

    In order to reach 1oo whilst dead, a person must first have reach 99 whilst dead, but before that 98, but before that 97, and so on.

    So how many dead people are there, collecting Japanese pensions or other government benefits, who are over 90? Over 80? Over 70?

    Could those numbers maybe potentially possibly perhaps be fairly large? Who knows? At least the Japanese authorities seem to be doing something to find out. And regardless what is discovered, I think the relevancy of Tim’s comment cited above remains intact.

  4. Only a fucking idiot would believe the facts and figures coming out of Cuba, and sure enough the only people I’ve seen doing so are those fucking idiots who swallowed whole the statistics coming out of the USSR.

  5. Life expectancy is simply the average age of death in a year, so these people wouldn’t count, would they?

  6. No Matthew – - life expectancy is not “simply the average age of death in a year.”

    Look it up. Aren’t you sitting in front of a computer?

  7. I’ve looked it up and still think I am right. It’s not a forecast.

    Tim adds: Well, it is called “expected life expectancy at birth”.

  8. Personally, I find any statistics coming out of Japan of interest.
    It’s the one developed country that doesn’t really do this wonderful multicultural society thing. The overwhelming majority of Japanese are Japanese. Thusly, if they see an increase in obesity, for instance, it is in fact an increase in obesity not in part the result of importing large numbers of people who’s culture regards being a bit on the chubby side as a good thing. Likewise their poverty & relative poverty levels are not a reflection of being the preferred destination of the world’s poor.

  9. Tim adds: Well, it is called “expected life expectancy at birth”.

    Yes, but it’s not a forecast. Note how life expectancy at birth (bottom chart) collapses in WWI (and to a lesser extent WWII). This is not because of some prediction in 1915 or 1942 about what would happen in 1965 or 1992

  10. No Matthew – – life expectancy is not “simply the average age of death in a year.”

    You want to think so–g’head, knock yerself out.

    That does not change what it is.

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