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The combined cost of suicides and depression cases to the economy totaled ¥2.68 trillion in 2009 due to lost incomes from the deaths and social security payments necessitated by the mood disorder, the government said Tuesday.

Health minister Akira Nagatsuma released the figures at a meeting of Cabinet ministers pursuing measures to deal with suicides and depression, Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry officials said.

The estimated economic loss, released for the first time, was compiled by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

Among the 32,845 people who killed themselves in 2009, about 26,500 were aged between 15 and 69, the ministry said. If those people had lived and worked until the age of 70, they would have earned a combined ¥1.903 trillion, it said.

In addition, if depression sufferers had not taken their own lives or did not have to take days off due to their condition, the government would not have had to pay ¥45.6 billion in worker compensation benefits, it said.

Among other costs, the ministry noted that workers would have been able to earn a combined ¥109.4 billion more last year if people suffering depression had taken no days off work and unemployment benefits would have been reduced by ¥18.7 billion had there been no job losses due to depression.

The government also could have saved ¥601.7 billion in social security payments stemming from livelihood protection subsidies and medical costs for people suffering depression.

The total estimated losses to the economy resulting from suicides and depression cases thus came to ¥2.678 trillion, the ministry said.

If society can completely eliminate suicide and depression, the country would likely be able to push up gross domestic product for 2010 by about ¥1.7 trillion, the ministry estimated.

The ministers decided during the Cabinet meeting to set up a task force comprising the political appointees to the relevant ministries, including the health ministry and the Cabinet Office, to devise measures to counter suicides.

The government will wage a weeklong suicide-awareness campaign starting Friday. As part of the campaign, the Cabinet Office will post a video clip on its website in which Kengo Nakamura, a midfielder on the J. League soccer team Kawasaki Frontale, and others call for the prevention of suicides.

The number of Japanese who committed suicide surpassed 30,000 for the 12th consecutive year in 2009, according to Cabinet Office data. In July alone, 2,840 people killed themselves, up 2.0 percent from a year before.

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