Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about Asahi Shimbun’s series “Kozoku no Kuni.” Toward the end of the column I mentioned how the series mainly talked about men, and how the “lonely nation” seemed to be about them. This isn’t to say that women will not be lonely, too, only that women seem better prepared for this eventuality. As an adjunct, Masako and I wrote a blog post about how women are now buying more life insurance than men are, but there were other data in the Asahi series focusing on women that I didn’t have room for in the MM column. For instance, in terms of kodukushi, or “dying alone,” statistically there’s a sudden increase in the numbers of men dying alone in their early 50s, while such a spurt doesn’t happen among women until after they turn 65. And the kodokushi peak for men is in the early 70s, while for women it’s overwhelmingly in the 80s. Though the series doesn’t analyze these numbers in depth, the feeling I got from the articles is that even when women live alone they have stronger connections to their communities, and so the chance of dying alone at a younger age is less than it is for men, who, whether never married or widowed or divorced, have little connection to their communities. Other stray statistics that relate to this phenomenon are that men become ill more easily when they live alone, and that the rates for suicide for men living alone is 46.6 per 100,000, while the rate for men who don’t live alone is 19.6 per 100,000. Unfortunately, for purposes of comparison the series doesn’t provide suicide statistics for women living alone.
Also, this phenomenon is not limited to Japan. South Korea and China will likely have the same situation fairly soon; especially China because of the one-child policy and the imbalance between males and females born after the policy went into effect.