Suicide rate in Japan 2009-2018

Number of suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in Japan from 2009 to 2018

by Julia Engelmann, last edited Sep 24, 2019
Suicide rate in Japan 2009-2018 Japan’s suicide numbers peaked in 2009, when the country experienced its worst recession since World War II. That year, the suicide rate surged to 25.7 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and almost 33 thousand victims in total. Despite noticeably decreasing suicide numbers in recent years, Japan still had one of the highest suicide rates among high-income OECD nations. In 2018, the country reported 16.5 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
What are the reasons behind Japan’s high suicide rates?

Historically, Japan’s high suicide rates were closely linked to the economic situation of individuals. While the majority of suicides in Japan stemmed from health reasons, existential worries and problems directly related to work accounted for over 5,000 self-inflicted deaths in 2018.
The most profound issue faced by employees in Japan leading to self-harm was exhaustion. An increasing pressure of retaining jobs by putting in more hours of overtime, while taking fewer holidays and sick days were seen as the main motivators behind the rising suicide numbers among office workers and employees. Occupational sudden mortality, known as karoshi ("death by overwork") is a well-known phenomenon in Japanese society. Besides physical pressure, mental stress from the workplace can cause karoshi. Suicide due to occupational stress or overwork is called karojisatsu ("overwork suicide") in Japan.

Which demographic groups are affected?

While middle-aged men were frequently portrayed as the highest-risk group for suicide in Japan, suicides among elderly and school children were recurrently picked up by media. Financial anxiety, bullying, isolation and the lack of a proficient mental healthcare system were only some of the factors for contributing to the country’s high suicide rates amongst all age groups.
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Number of suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in Japan from 2009 to 2018

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