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 total for 2020 of 21,081 showed a 4.5% rise on the previous year. The number of suicides per 100,000 people also rose for the first time since 2009 to 16.7.

While suicides among men dropped by 23 over the preceding year to 14,055, suicides among women increased by 935 to 7,026. This substantial rise is thought to be due to drastic changes in living conditions and uncertain employment prospects caused by the pandemic. The total of 499 suicides among elementary, junior high, and high school students was also the highest since records began in 1980.

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 2,230, an increase of 691 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, Iwate and Yamanashi had the highest rates of deaths by suicide at 22.7 and 22.4, respectively. Kyoto and Kanagawa had the lowest rates at 13.7 and 13.8, respectively. Tokyo and Osaka both had rates of 16.0.

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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