Study: Japan’s Suicides Jump 16% in Coronavirus Second Wave

TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 12: Commuters, mostly wearing face masks, pass through a train station as they travel to work during the first full week of Tokyos second state of emergency on January 12, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures remain under a month-long state of emergency …
Carl Court/Getty Images

Monthly suicide rates in Japan increased by 16 percent from July to October 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, Japanese researchers have found. The three-month interval coincided with Japan’s second wave of Chinese coronavirus outbreaks, Reuters reported Sunday.

Published by researchers at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology and Hong Kong University in the scientific journal Nature Human Behavior on January 15, the study found a larger increase in the suicide rates “among females (37 percent) and children and adolescents (49 percent).”

Friday’s findings contrast starkly with suicide data from Japan’s first coronavirus wave – February to June 2020 – when the country recorded a 14 percent decline in the number of suicides nationwide. Some observers credited the drop to increased government subsidies during periods of lockdown, as well as decreased working hours and school closures. Japanese researchers suggested that the conditions may have reduced daily stress for the nation’s traditionally overworked citizens.

Scientists based the January 15 suicide study on Japanese health ministry data from November 2016 to October 2020.

“Unlike normal economic circumstances, this pandemic disproportionately affects the psychological health of children, adolescents and females (especially housewives),” the study’s authors wrote.

The 37-percent increase in female suicides was “about five times the increase among men – as the prolonged pandemic hurt industries where women predominate, increasing the burden on working mothers, while domestic violence increased,” the researchers noted.

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide on January 7 declared a limited state of emergency for Tokyo and three of its surrounding prefectures after health authorities recorded a surge in the number of new daily coronavirus cases throughout the capital region. Suga expanded the state of emergency to seven additional prefectures, including Osaka and Kyoto, on January 13. The lockdown restrictions in the national capital are slated to last until at least February 7 and will shut down or restrict service across greater Tokyo’s 150,000 restaurants and bars.

Japan’s administrative and regulatory reform minister, Kono Taro, told Reuters on January 14 that the Japanese federal government “cannot kill the economy” in its efforts to contain Japan’s latest coronavirus resurgence, as this may have a destructive impact on the nation’s collective mental health.

“People worry about COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus]. But a lot of people have also committed suicide because they have lost their jobs, they have lost their income and couldn’t see the hope,” Kono told the news agency.

“We need to strike the balance between managing COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] and managing the economy,” he added.


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