Suicides in Japan decreased for the sixth straight year in 2015, though it remains a serious problem among the elderly and younger generations, according to a government report released Tuesday.
The percentage of suicides committed by both elderly and young people rose compared with numbers from 2007, the report noted.
The total number dropped to 24,025 in 2015, down 1,402 from the year before and falling below the 25,000 mark for the first time in 18 years, according to National Police Agency data cited by the White Paper on Suicide Prevention Measures.
The percentage of suicides among men in their 70s in 2015 was 1.6 points higher than in 2007. For women, the percentage rose 0.9 point. Men in this age bracket accounted for 9.1 percent of the total last year, while women in their 70s accounted for 5.2 percent.
The percentage for male suicides in their 80s increased 1.9 points compared with 2007 levels to account for 5.8 percent of all suicides. Women in their 80s who killed themselves rose 0.8 point to account for 4.4 percent of the total.
The percentage of suicides committed by men and women aged 19 or younger also rose — by 0.6 point and 0.1 point, respectively, to 1.6 percent and 0.7 percent, the report said. The government compared 2015 data with levels in 2007, a year after a basic law to prevent suicides was enacted.
In 2014, suicide was the leading cause of death among persons aged 15 to 39. Among those aged 20 to 29, suicide accounted for about half of all deaths.
Based on the findings, the report called for strengthening suicide prevention measures for the elderly and young in the rapidly aging society.
Following the entry into force of a revised basic law on suicide prevention in April that obliges local governments to draft plans to counter suicide, the government is seeking a better response from municipal authorities and closer cooperation with private-sector support groups.
Yasuyuki Shimizu, head of suicide prevention nonprofit organization Lifelink, said suicides among the elderly are seen in cases where they feel lonely after losing spouses or interaction with local communities. Suffering from poverty and sickness is also a big cause, he added.
“We need to establish a system where municipalities and private organizations offer swift support measures when they catch signs that could lead to suicides through their consultation work,” Shimizu said. Such measures include routine visits and extending welfare support for those in need, he added.
As for preventing suicides among young people, Shimizu said schools should teach students how to seek help, and tell students that they have places where they can consult others about their worries.