WHITE PAPER ON YOUTH 2003 -- Part One Present State of Youths in Japan

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Part 1 Present State of Youths in Japan

Chapter 2 Youth Health and Safety

Section 1 Health Status of Youths

(Maternal and Child Health Status)

The infant mortality rate (number of deaths of infants aged less than one year per 1,000 new born babies) had exceeded 150 up until the middle of the 1920s. After WWII, it showed rapid improvement, and now Japan is among the nations with the lowest infant death rates in the world, at 3.1 in 2001.

Major causes of infant death in the postwar period were infectious diseases like pneumonia and enteritis, but these days such causes are decreasing, and instead "congenital deformity and chromosome disorder," "birth asphyxia," "respiratory disturbances arising during pregnancy" and "sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)" occupy the leading positions.

(Physique of Youths)

Table 2 shows the national average by age, height, weight and seated height of pupils and students in elementary schools, junior highs, senior highs, and secondary schools in 2002.

Table 2 Average Height, Weight and Seated Height By Age

Note:1. Ages are as of April 1, 2001 and 2002. Junior High School includes the first course of lower secondary school, and High School includes the second course of lower secondary school.
2. Underlined figures are record highs since the survey started.
Source:School Health Examination Survey, Ministry of Education, Culture , Sports ,Science and Technology(2001)

(Physical Fitness of Youths)

The level of physical fitness among children aged 6 to 11 has been rapidly and almost linearly improving among both males and females along with the advance in age. This improvement trend is recognized among both genders until age 14, but male youths showed continuous improvement until age 17 while female youths seemed to have almost reached a plateau at that age. (Figure 4)

Looking at basic fitness levels tested through running (50m dash and long run), jumping (standing long jump) and throwing (softball or handball) as well as the grip level, there were no remarkable differences in some capacities by age in certain stages of development. But in most stages, there are declining trends in all capacities.

Figure 4 Total Points of New Physical Fitness Test by Age

Note:1. Total points are the sum of points on a scale of one to ten of the results of test items that differ among age groups as follows:
6-11 year olds: grip strength, sit-ups, sit & reach, repetitive side steps, 20m shuttle runs, 50 m dash, standing long jump, softball throwing
12-19 year olds: grip strength, sit-ups, sit & reach, repetitive side steps, 20m shuttle runs, 1500m run, 50m dash, standing long jump, handball throwing (20m shuttle runs and 1500m run are optional)
2. Figures are obtained by smoothing the moving average (Moving average here is the average calculated by adding the closet three figures and dividing by three to reduce fluctuation on a graph)
3. Score standards differ between 6-11 age group, 12-19 age group and male/female.
Source:"Survey on Physical Fitness and Motor Ability," Ministry of Education, Culture , Sports ,Science and Technology (FY 2001)


The nutritional status of infants has improved remarkably in recent years along with the nationwide nutritional improvements due to the growth of the national economy and the penetration of child-care knowledge and advanced food-processing technology. A shift from breast feeding to artificial feeding was recognized at a certain stage in the past, but in recent years, the value of breast milk is being reassessed from many aspects: nutritional ingredients, immune antibodies, and mother-infant interaction beneficial to the child's mental and emotional development. Furthermore, with the increased numbers of nuclear families and working women, the family and social environments surrounding infants have been greatly changing. Under such conditions, their dietary habits have also been considerably affected. In recent times, the importance of shaping sound dietary habits for the prevention of obesity and other life-style related diseases as well as of establishing family relationships and fostering humanity through dietary habits is pointed out even as early as in childhood.

The nutritional intake of young people is generally well-balanced, but at an individual level there are emerging problems such as excessive or imbalanced intake. Another new dietary problem among youths is the habitual omission of meals. (Table 3)

Table 3 Omission of Meals

Source:"National Nutrition Survey," Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (2000)


The medical consultation rate by age in 1999 (estimated number of patients per 100,000 persons) was the highest among babies less than 12 months old (7,649), followed by the 1 to 4 age group (6,003). The lowest is the 15 to 19 age group (2,100). By gender, males show a higher rate in the 0 to 14 age group while females show a higher rate in the 15 to 24 age group. By type of disease, respiratory diseases accounted for the largest share in the 0 to 14 age group, and digestive system diseases the largest in the 15 to 24 age group.

Looking at the diseases and defects among children that have led to consultations with doctors by academic level in 2002, the highest consultation rate was recorded for "cavities." Those with cavities (including those who completed treatment) exceeded 70% at all school levels except for junior high males, but the percentage has been declining every year. The second highest was "unaided vision under 20/20," and nearsightedness among students increased with age.

Section 2 Youth Safety

(Overview of Accidental Death)

The number of the youth deaths (aged 0 to 24) from accidents in 2001 was 3,211, 26.2% of all deaths in the same age group. The percentage of accidental deaths was high in all age groups, particularly in the 15 to 19 age group, which accounted for close to half of the total (43.2%). Traffic accidents were the highest cause of all. Many babies died from suffocation caused by food lodged in their throats or choking in bed, while older infants died from drowning in baths.

(Traffic Accidents)

The number of traffic accidents in 2002 was 936,721, up 10,448 (1.1%) from the previous year. The number of deaths from traffic accidents was 8,326, and that from injuries was 1,167,855, down 421 (4.8%) and 13,100 (1.1%) from the previous year, respectively.

Among young people aged 0 to 24, the number of deaths was 1,574, 18.9% of all deaths and down 5.9% from the previous year. By gender, male deaths decreased by 8.3% to 1,204 (76.5% of all youth deaths from traffic accidents) and females increased by 3.1% to 370 (23.5% in the same scale). The number of youth injuries was 339,835, 29.1% of all injuries and down 3.4% from the previous year. Male injuries decreased by 4.0% to 203,552 (59.9% of the all youth injuries from traffic accidents) and female injuries also decreased by 2.5% to 136,283 (40.1% in the same scale).

By type of accident, 804 died while in a car (51.1% of all the youth deaths from traffic accidents), 481 died while riding on a two-wheeled vehicle (motorbikes and autocycles) (30.6%), 174 died while walking (11.1%), and 114 died while riding a bicycle (7.2%).


The number of people who drowned in the summer period (June to August) in 2002 was 1,131, of which those aged 18 or under was 360 (31.8% of the total), 6 more than the previous year.

(Lost in Mountains)

The number of mountain accidents in 2002 was 1,348, and the number of those involved was 1,631 persons. The number of youth victims under 20 years old was 97 (5.9% of the total), 24 more than the previous year.

(Casualties in School Jurisdictions)

Data of casualty mutual benefits for 2002 (payment of medical bills, disability benefits, death benefits) showed that the following casualties (injuries, sickness, disabilities and death) existed among pupils and students in school jurisdictions (in regular classes and special activities, in extra lessons, during break time, and going to/leaving school) out of 18,504,372 insured people: 1,679,808 injuries and sickness, 609 disabilities, and 95 deaths, totaling 1,680,512 cases.

(Labor Accidents)

The number of deaths and injuries resulting in absences of 4 days or longer caused by labor accidents in 2001 was 140,149, of which those for youths under 20 years of age came to 4,074, 2.9% of the total. By industry, there were 1,237 cases in manufacturing (30.4% of all industries) and 866 in construction (21.3%); thus, these two industries accounted for the majority of labor casualties.


The number of casualties recorded that were probably caused by photochemical air pollution (smog) in 2002 was 1,347, most of which were related to elementary school or junior high school students. Most incidents occurred while they were participating in outdoor club activities or taking swimming lessons.

Section 3 Victimization by Crime and Abuse

(Victimization by Crime)

The number of reported cases of penal code offenses in which juveniles were victimized in 2002 was 406,519, down 3,988 (1.0%) from the previous year. By type of offense, victims of heinous offenses were 2,138, and those of violent offenses were 24,007, up 119 (5.9%) and down 1,193 (4.7%) from the previous year, respectively. (Table 4)

Table 4 Number of Juvenile Victims in Cases Reported for Penal Code Offenses
(2001 and 2002)

Source:National Police Agency

The total number of reported cases of penal code offenses in which juveniles were victimized and the number of victims of heinous offenses have recently been increasing, though the total number of reported cases declined in 2002 (Figure 5). In addition, the number of juvenile victims of sexual offenses (rape and indecent assault) has increased considerably to 6,903 (up 5 (0.01%) over the previous year), indicating the increased seriousness of criminal damage inflicted upon juveniles.

Figure 5 Trends in the Number of Juvenile Victims in Cases Reported for Penal Code Offenses (1993-2002)

Source:National Police Agency

In 2002, 7,364 juveniles, down 789 (9.7%) over the previous year, were victimized in welfare-related offenses, such as violation of the Law For Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and for Protecting Children (hereinafter called the "Law against Child Prostitution and Child Pornography"), the Child Welfare Law and the Juvenile Protection Ordinance. By academic level, most of the victims were high school students, with the number reaching 2,469 (33.5%), followed by unemployed juveniles at 2,118 (28.8%) and junior high school students at 1,862 (25.3%).

The number of juveniles victimized by cases related to the Law against Child Prostitution and Child Pornography was 1,690 in 2002.

The number of juveniles victimized by offenses related to "online dating sites" in 2002 was 1,317, up 719 (120.2%) from the previous year. By type of offense, most of them were victimized by violations of the Law against Child Prostitution and Child Pornography at 740 (56.2%), followed by violations of the Juvenile Protection Ordinance. The number of juveniles victimized by heinous offenses such as homicide and rape was 42, having rapidly increased sevenfold from 2002 when the statistics were first taken.

(Child Abuse)

In recent times, child abuse in which parents and guardians use violence on their children is a serious social concern.

The number of cases of consultation for child abuse provided by Child Guidance Centers has been increasing every year, reaching 23,274 in FY 2001. (Table 5)

Table 5 Number of Consultations Given for Child Abuse

Note:Upper columns in parentheses show the index (growth rate) to FY 2000 figure (100).
Source:Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare

More specifically, physical violence had the largest share at about 50%, followed by neglect (about 40%), psychological abuse and sexual abuse.

Looking at the age composition of victimized children, the majority were new born babies and preschool infants, indicating that abusive acts start at quite an early stage of child development.

The number of child abuse cases cleared by the police in 2002 was 172 (184 persons were cleared. The number of victimized children was 179, of which 39 (21.8%) were dead at the time of the clearance.


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