Japan’s elderly, happier than American counterparts

8 years ago by in Featured, Japan

Japanese eldersA United States-Japan research project states that Japanese elderly persons are more content than the American ones. The study rated psychological aspects, personal growth, relationships with others, a feeling of having purpose in life, philosophical and religious traditions and popular literature.

The study, called “Cultural Perspectives on Aging and Well-Being: A Comparison of Japan and the U.S.”, was made by researcher teams from universities such as Tokyo Women’s Christian University, Harvard and Stanford.

One of the conclusions was that fewer Japanese live alone, compared to their American counterparts. 10.7 million people or 27 percent of the population in the U.S. who is 65 or older live on their own, according to the 2009 American Community Survey, compared with 13 percent in Japan in 2010, according to the Japan National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

“Such living arrangements increase the likelihood that Japanese elders, in comparison to their U.S. counterparts, give and receive more economic, instrumental and emotional social support, which may lead to a greater sense of wellbeing. In Japan, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism characterize maturity as a socially valuable part of life, a time of “spring” or “rebirth”—the reward an older person earns following a life of working,” the study states.

At the “Personal Growth” topic, the researchers stated that the Americans felt that their abilities had grown during their 30s and 40s, but began to decline in middle age. Japanese think that their personal growth, including the ability to make calm, reasoned decisions, had increased between middle age and old age.

One of the explanations for the rather positive attitude of Japanese elderly could be their generation’s historical context. “Older Japanese lived through post-war reconstruction, whereas older members of the U.S. lived through a post-war economic boom. In that sense, old age for many in Japan may, in fact, reflect improvement over prior life periods,” the report said.