Appearance of longevity helped by dishonesty
27 September 2011
People in Japan are reported to live to a considerable age. Japanese are also considered to be a very ethical race. But research last year suggested that all is not as it seems. After endeavouring to verify their circumstances, the Government found that more than 230,000 Japanese listed as 100 years old could not be located and many may have died decades ago. An example is Tokyo’s oldest resident. A pension has been paid to a woman who would be 113 years old. But an investigation found the last sighting of her was in 1986. So a diet of rice and seaweed may not be the ingredient for apparent long life, just a reluctance of family to disclose the deaths of their older generations.
Research in the United States has found similar results. Federal Civil Service superannuitants seem to have a Japanese-like propensity for long life, but more than US$120 million each year is being paid to former officials who have died. And Social Security pensions of more than US$40 miilion a year are being paid to claimants who are dead. Pension records indicate that there are about 125,000 people aged over 90 years in the United States. But in a survey to find 1000 of them, 144 were unable to be located and the deaths of another 6 had not been reported. One “egregious loss” involved benefits paid for 37 years after a pensioner’s death, coming to light only when the receiving child died.