• Kyodo News

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Suicides in Japan topped 30,000 for the ninth straight year in 2006, although a slight drop was seen from the previous year, the National Police Agency said Thursday, adding, however, that young teen suicides surged.

A total of 32,155 people took their own lives last year, down 1.2 percent, or 397, from 2005, the report said.

The NPA said Japan’s economic recovery contributed to the decrease. The number of people who took their lives due to economic hardship went down by 10.1 percent, or 787, to 6,969 in 2006.

But suicides by students rose 2.9 percent, or 25, to 886, the worst on record, which the NPA started keeping in 1978. Junior high school student suicides saw a 22.7 percent increase, to 81, reflecting several attributed to bullying last fall.

By age, suicides by people aged 60 or older and those aged 19 or younger both saw an increase, while a decrease was seen in all age groups among those in their 20s to 50s.

Suicides committed by people aged 60 or older accounted for 11,120, or 34.6 percent, of the total, and those by people aged 19 or younger rose by 15 from the previous year to 623, comprising 1.9 percent of the total.

Men still accounted for about 70 percent of the total, but female suicides rose by 330 to 9,342.

Health problems were seen as the most common presumed reason behind suicides, accounting for 15,402, or nearly half, followed by economic and livelihood difficulties, the NPA said. Family troubles accounted for 2,960 and work problems 1,919 deaths, it said.

The NPA said 32.5 percent, or 10,466 people, left suicide notes. Of them, the number of those who cited school-related problems, including bullying and academic performance, rose 28.2 percent to 91, the highest since the survey in this category began in 1998, it said.

With or without suicide notes, the number of suicides police attributed to school-related problems totaled 242, up by nine from the previous year.

By profession, suicides by the self-employed went down 3.6 percent to 3,567, followed by salaried workers, which were down 1.8 percent, to 8,163. Suicides by the unemployed and homeless stayed about the same level, at 15,412.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Wednesday that suicides dipped below 30,000, but the ministry’s data only cover those deaths reported to government offices.

The NPA suicide data tend to be higher than the ministry’s because they include unsolved deaths that are later deemed suicides, along with suicides committed in Japan by foreigners.

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