Japan recorded fewer deaths in 2020 for first time in 11 years

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The number of deaths in the nation last year decreased by 9,373, or 0.7%, from a year earlier to 1,384,544, down for the first time in 11 years, preliminary health ministry data showed on Monday. The smaller total may be linked to a sharp fall in seasonal influenza infections as people took strict infection prevention measures, including wearing face masks and washing their hands, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The annual number of deaths had been increasing against the backdrop of the country’s graying population.

Meanwhile, the preliminary number of births in 2020 dropped by 25,917, or 2.9%, to a record low of 872,683. A revised birth figure set to be released later is expected to slip below the record low of 865,239 set in 2019. The number of couples who married last year slumped by 78,069, or 12.7%, to 537,583, posting the second steepest decline since the end of World War II.

“There appeared to be a swing back” from the increase in couples marrying seen in 2019, which also saw the start of Japan’s new Reiwa era, a ministry official said. The number of couples who divorced in 2020 decreased by 16,314, or 7.7%, to 196,641, easing concerns that many couples might have divorced as a result of spending a lot of time together at home amid the pandemic.

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