Photo/IllutrationAn 88-year-old man uses a mobile frame to support himself at his home in Akita Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

People living alone will make up nearly 40 percent of households in Japan in 2040, due in part to a growing trend to delay getting married or opting to stay single, research shows.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, in a report released Jan. 12, also said one in four senior citizens aged 65 or older will be living by themselves in 2040.

It noted the urgency of addressing the issue of an increasing number of aged, single households.

“We need to start discussing how the government and society at large should share responsibilities to assist elderly people living alone with no relatives to help out,” said Toru Suzuki, director of the institute’s Department of Population Structure Research.

The institute estimates trends in Japanese households every five years. Its latest study is based on the national census conducted in 2015.

The ratio of single-member households in 2015 was 34.5 percent, or 18.42 million dwellings.

The figure is projected to increase by 4.8 points to 39.3 percent in 2040, or 19.94 million households, according to the estimate.

In 2040, the population of senior citizens is expected to peak, by which time children of baby boomers will be classified as elderly.

The proportion of elderly people living alone is estimated to hit 22.9 percent in 2040, up from 18.5 percent in 2015.

Households led by senior citizens will surge to 22.42 million, or 44.2 percent, in 2040 from 19.18 million, or 36 percent, in 2015, the estimate showed.

Of this, households headed by people aged 75 or older will account for 54.3 percent of dwellings in 2040, up from 46.3 percent in 2015.

The overall number of households--53.33 million in 2015--will increase for a while because of families with only a few members.

After household numbers peak in 2023, at 54.19 million, they will decline to 50.76 million in 2040.