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Japan missing 230,000 centenarians

(Michael Wilbur/FTWP)

A month-long audit of Japanese family registers has turned up a macabre fact: 230,000 elderly people are missing.

The country has touted its citizens' longevity, but it is now reeling from the discovery that thousands of its registered citizens over 100 years of age may no longer be living.

The nationwide search started when officials went to wish their oldest male citizen a happy 111th birthday. They found a 30-year-old mummy instead. The family had continued to collect Sogen Kato's pension after his death, which likely occurred in 1978.

Japan initially released figures that listed the population of people over 100 at around 40,300, but the audit turned up 230,000 missing centenarians on the public registry. Many of the missing would be at least 150 years old, and some may have died as long ago as World War II.

Alexandra Harney at Slate thinks American adults who are still single need to take a lesson from the macabre turn of events in Japan: stop mooching off mom and dad and start having kids of your own. "There will be fewer workers to support more retirees, a shrinking workforce, and falling demand for Japanese companies' products and services."

By Melissa Bell  | September 10, 2010; 8:49 AM ET
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