Japan Data

Suicides in Japan Increase for the First Time Since 2009

Society Health Politics

The number of suicides rose in Japan in 2020, a year in which people faced the additional pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After 10 years in which the number of suicides in Japan had steadily declined, the preliminary count for 2020 of 20,919 showed a 3.7% rise on the previous year. The number of suicides per 100,000 people also rose for the first time since 2009 to 16.6.

While suicides among men dropped by 135 over the preceding year to 13,943, suicides among women increased by 885 to 6,976. The increase is thought to be due to drastic changes in living conditions and uncertain employment prospects caused by the pandemic.

By month, the number of suicides had continued to decline over the first half of 2020, but began to rise in June among women, and in August among men. The overall total for October was 2,199, an increase of 660 over the figure for the same month in 2019. The suicides of a number of prominent people over the summer and into the fall may have been a contributing factor.

By prefecture, Yamanashi and Iwate had the highest rate of deaths by suicide at 22.3, while Kanagawa had the lowest rate at 13.5. Tokyo had 16.1 and Osaka 15.7.

Annual suicides in Japan remained around 20,000–25,000 until 1997, but exceeded 30,000 from 1998 to 2011, peaking at 34,427 in 2003. The suicide’s rate 10 years of decline from 2010 came as Japan’s economy improved and local counseling services were enhanced and expanded.

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare says that in many cases people feel driven to kill themselves because of social issues that can be addressed, so the government is promoting comprehensive suicide prevention measures involving health, medical care, welfare, education, labor, and other fields. It has set up a special website with telephone hotlines and services on social media such as Line and other social media. The site also provides easy-to-understand information about government measures to prevent suicides.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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