For the first time in 15 years, fewer than 30,000 people committed suicide last year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.
All told, 27,858 people killed themselves, down 9.1 percent from the previous year, the agency said.
Financial problems were blamed for 5,219 suicides, an 18.5 percent drop from the previous year, the NPA said.
“Measures to address issues over multiple debts and loan sharks are making an impact,” a government official said.
By sex, men accounted for 19,273 suicides, down 8.0 percent, and women 8,585, down 11.5 percent.
Health was at least one factor in 13,629 cases, down 6.8 percent, while family problems were linked to 4,089 deaths, down 10.1 percent, the agency said.
Suicides fell in every age group.
It was the top cause of death among people in their 20s and 30s for six consecutive years through 2011, according to the Cabinet Office, which is calling for stepped-up efforts to make it easier for troubled young people to consult others about their problems. The office also deems it necessary to promote job creation to keep young people from killing themselves.
Meanwhile, a total of 24 people in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are believed to have killed themselves for reasons linked to the March 2011 disasters, based on notes left behind or interviews with their families, the NPA said.
On the increase, however, is stalking. Police recorded 19,920 cases last year, up 36.3 percent from the previous year, the largest figure since it started compiling such data in 2000, the NPA said.
“More and more people are seeking police help as they have realized that stalking may lead to serious crimes,” an NPA official said. “We expect victims to visit us as soon as possible to prevent these incidents from escalating.”
According to the agency, 87.4 percent of stalking victims were women, while 85.9 percent of stalkers were men. People in their 20s accounted for 34.7 percent of the victims. Those in their 30s made up 27.6 percent and those in their 40s 17.9 percent.
The NPA also said police probed a record 43,950 domestic violence cases last year, up 28.0 percent.