Suicides Soar in Japan After Falling During Pandemic

This picture taken on November 1, 2018 shows a walking path in Aokigahara Forest, known as
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

The number of suicides in Japan rose in October to the highest level recorded in over five years, Japanese police data revealed on Tuesday.

“[T]he total number of suicides for October was 2,153, an increase of more than 300 from the previous month and the highest monthly tally since May 2015,” Japan Today reported, citing “preliminary police data” from the East Asian country.

October marked the fourth month in a row that Japan documented an increase in its suicide rate.

“Of October’s cases, 851 were women, a rise of 82.6 percent over the same month in 2019. The number of suicides by men rose 21.3 percent,” according to the report.

Observers say the recent spike in Japan’s suicide rate may have been caused by the economic impact of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Japanese women. Women in Japan are more likely to work non-permanent jobs in the retail or service industries, meaning they have experienced higher rates of job loss during the pandemic than Japanese men.

The number of reported suicide cases in Japan “had been falling steadily until July but then the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak hit home and the numbers started rising,” the Japanese newspaper noted.

From February through June, the number of suicides in Japan decreased by 13.5 percent from the average for that time period, according to a study published on September 2 by a researcher from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology.

The study suggested that the Japanese government’s distribution of financial aid and support of reduced working hours during the height of Japan’s coronavirus outbreak earlier this year may have contributed to the decrease in suicides during the five-month period.

The suicide rate in Japan declined most significantly among men aged 20-69, who account for the majority of Japan’s workforce.

“The rate fell 12 percent from February to June from the average for that time,” according to the study’s researchers.

The September 2 study found “[a] less significant change in Japan’s female suicide rate — which decreased about seven percent from the average.”

Like Japan Today on Tuesday, the study’s researchers suggested this could be due to women in Japan being more likely than men to lose their jobs during the pandemic.

“Women in Japan are also more likely to take on greater household tasks and to suffer domestic violence during the pandemic,” the researchers noted.

Japan has the highest suicide rate among the Group of Seven (G7) nations, an economic bloc of seven developed countries.

The nation’s suicide rate was “16 per 100,000 people,” as of June, according to the Japan Times.

“Previous studies have found that stress caused by overwork and isolation were among the risk factors for suicide in the country,” the newspaper noted at the time.

Japan’s life expectancy is more than 84 years, the highest in the world.


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