Immigrants in Japan face multiple health care challenges. There is limited research addressing how all-cause mortality differs between foreign residents and Japanese citizens, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We assessed whether all-cause mortality rates between Japanese citizens and foreign residents living in Japan differ, and whether these differentials changed after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis using vital statistical data of all deaths among citizens and foreign residents that occurred within Japanese borders aggregated every 6 months between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2021. Data were used to calculate sex-, region-, and 20-year age group-specific standardized mortality rates using the direct method based on the population distribution of Japanese citizens in 2021 by sex, region, and 20-year age groups. Chi-squared tests and linear regression were used to assess whether the pandemic was associated with changes in mortality rates among groups and changes in the mortality differentials between citizens and non-citizens, respectively. All-cause mortality increased monotonically with age for men and women. Men had higher mortality than women, regardless of age or nationality. All-cause mortality is lower among immigrants than Japanese citizens between the ages of 20–59, but higher under the age of 20 and over the age of 59. The pandemic was associated with significant changes in mortality in most groups, but no statistically significant changes in the mortality differentials between immigrants and Japanese citizens were detected. Young immigrants are generally healthier than their Japanese counterparts, in line with the healthy migrant hypothesis. Younger migrants are at higher risk of mortality, possibly due to increased vulnerability to psychologic stress. Older migrant mortality converged with citizen mortality, consistent with acculturation that occurs with longer duration of residence. The pandemic did not exacerbate health inequities for foreign residents with respect to mortality.
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