What do recent suicide developments in Japan look like in numbers?Japan’s suicide numbers peaked in 2009, when the country experienced its worst recession since World War II. That same year, the suicide rate surged to 25.7 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and almost 33 thousand victims in total. While the country's suicide rate has shown a steady downwards trend in recent years, 2020 marked the first time within the past decade that suicide numbers were rising again. The unexpected upwards trend is likely to be connected to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
From a gender perspective, men are more likely to commit suicide than women, with 24.3 deaths per 100,000 male inhabitants in 2022, as opposed to a female suicide rate of 11.1 in the same year.
What are the reasons behind Japan’s high suicide rates?Historically, Japan’s high suicide rates are closely linked to the economic situation of the individuals. While the majority of suicides in Japan stemmed from health reasons, existential worries and problems directly related to work accounted for over 7.6 thousand self-inflicted deaths.
In the last 10 years, 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 are 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.