Senility deaths in aged societies: The case of Japan

Glob Health Med. 2024 Feb 29;6(1):40-48. doi: 10.35772/ghm.2023.01127.


Senility is now the third largest cause of death in Japan, comprising 11.4% of the total number of deaths in 2022. Although senility deaths were common in the period before the Second World War, they declined sharply from 1950 to 2000 and then increased up to the present. The recent increase is more than what we could expect from an increasing number of very old persons or the increasing number of deaths at facilities. The senility death description in the death certificate is becoming poorer, with 93.8% of them only with a single entry of "senility". If other diseases are mentioned, those are again vague diseases or conditions. Senility, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, sequelae of cerebrovascular disease, and heart failure are the largest causes of death in which senility is mentioned in the death certificate. The period from senility onset to death is often described within a few months, but it varies. In some cases, the deceased's age was written out of a conviction that the ageing process starts from birth. As senility is perceived differently among the certifying doctors, a standardised protocol to certify the senility death is needed. On the other hand, senility death is the preferred cause of death and many people do not wish to receive invasive medical examinations before dying peacefully. Together with other causes of death related to frailty, there would be a need to capture senility as a proper cause of death, not just as a garbage code, in the aged, low-mortality population.

Keywords: Japan; cause of death; senility.

Publication types

  • Review