Japan’s Deaths Fell in 2020: How Is That Possible?


The year 2020 will be remembered as a dark moment in global history. An unprecedented health crisis led to millions of deaths globally, as the world reconfigured itself to handle the sudden spread of a deadly illness. However, one country saw their annual rate of deaths decline in 2020. Japan, in spite of the presence of a pandemic, saw deaths in 2020 lower than any other time in the last decade.

So, what does this mean? Experts surmise that this means the extreme measures undertaken to prevent the transmission of one illness also stops the others. Mask-wearing, social distancing and lockdowns keeping people apart have the knock-on effect of stopping the spread of most diseases. The common cold, the flu and other airborne diseases find it much harder to spread when everyone is taking extreme measures to avoid another illness.

Japan’s Aging Population

That Japan has seen a reduced rate of deaths at all is something of a minor miracle. The country sports the oldest population in the world, owing to a combination of lifestyle habits and excellent healthcare. As such, many experts predicted 2020 would see staggering numbers of deaths in the Far Eastern country. Instead, the country’s measures to curtail the spread of disease were so thorough that less Japanese people died in 2020 than any other year in the last decade.

Notably, the report from the Japanese government about the drop in deaths does not break down mortality by category. As such, it is hard to draw hard-and-fast conclusions about what, specifically, has led to the decrease in deaths. However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say people staying home, commuting less and taking pains to not get sick all do wonders for a nation’s overall health.

Not All Good News

This isn’t all good news, however. In 2020, some 4 percent more people took their own lives. Japan’s ongoing fight with suicide rates in the country has been the topic of numerous initiatives to shore up mental health awareness in the country. Experts in the country believe the jump in suicide rates is due, primarily, to the added stresses of the incredibly difficult lockdowns and the added stresses of job losses and increased domestic responsibility.

So, while the lockdown efforts had some net positive effects in slowing the death rate in Japan, these measures were only ever meant to be temporary. Over a long period, the drain on the mental health of the populace is too great to keep such measures in place indefinitely.