A total of 23,971 people killed themselves in Japan in 2015, with the total slipping below 25,000 for the first time in 18 years, the National Police Agency said in a preliminary report on Friday.
It was a reduction of 6 percent from 2014, and the sixth straight annual decline.
It is a significant improvement from the dark days that began in 1998, when for 14 years in a row the total remained above 30,000. The number hit a peak of 34,427 in 2003.
“The number has decreased by more than 10,000 from the peak level, partly thanks to an upturn in the economy,” said a Cabinet Office official. “But as 66 people a day are taking their own lives, we will push ahead strongly with preventive measures in collaboration with other agencies.”
The report noted that the number of suicides among youngsters aged 10 to 19 had remained flat in recent years, while the numbers for other age groups are on the decline.
“The numbers for those in their 20s and 30s have begun to fall over the last several years, apparently thanks to strengthened efforts by local governments and mental care support in the workplace, as depression and other health problems are a major cause of suicide,” another Cabinet Office official said.
Between January and November 2015, there were 22 suicides linked to the March 2011 disaster, the Cabinet Office said. Nineteen of them occurred in Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.
This brings the total number of suicide cases regarded by police as disaster-related to 161, half of them in Fukushima. The police declare this the reason after speaking to family members.
The number of suicides fell in 37 of the country’s 47 prefectures, led by Kochi with a 36.2 percent drop. Tokushima came next with 23.1 percent, followed by Yamanashi with 20.2 percent.
Meanwhile, Okayama logged the biggest increase, at 19 percent, followed by Ishikawa with a 17.1 percent rise and Kumamoto with 10.3 percent.
Of those who killed themselves in 2015, about 70 percent, or 16,641, were men. There were 745 fewer male suicides and 711 fewer for women compared with a year earlier.
The number of suicides per 100,000 population dropped to 18.9 from 20.