Japan's population likely dropped further in 2014, with the estimated number of newborn babies in the country falling to 1,001,000, down about 29,000 from the previous year, according to health ministry estimates released on Wednesday.

The estimated number of people who died in 2014 totaled 1,269,000, an increase of around 1,000. As a result, the natural population decline, calculated by deducting the number of deaths from that of births, came to a record 268,000.

The latest data have an anticipated margin of error of 1,000, meaning that the number of newborn babies may slide below 1 million when new statistics on Japan's population are released in June.

An official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said a further drop in the number of children is inevitable as "the number of reproductive-age women is on the decline."

The number of newborn babies, which hit more than 2 million annually in the 1970s, dropped below 1.5 million in 1984 and below 1.1 million in 2005, the health ministry data showed.

On the other hand, the number of deaths topped 1 million for the 12th consecutive year. The top four leading causes of death in the country were cancer, heart disease, pneumonia and cerebrovascular disease.

The number of couples that got married in 2014 came to 649,000, down about 12,000 from 2013, while divorced couples numbered 222,000, down around 9,000.

On average, a person is born in every 32 seconds and a person dies every 25 seconds.