The suicide rate for Japan is roughly 60 percent higher than the global average, with 18.5 people out of every 100,000 committing suicide in 2012, according to a World Health Organization report released Thursday.
The U.N. body's first-ever report on suicide prevention said an estimated 804,000 people around the world took their own lives in 2012, which works out to roughly one person every 40 seconds, leading the WHO to call on each country to combat suicide with urgency.
"This report is a call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said in a statement.
In Japan, 29,442 people committed suicide in 2012 — 20,888 men and 8,554 women — which translates into an age-adjusted rate of 18.5 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, about 60 percent higher than the global average of 11.4.
The rate compares with 12.1 in the United States, 7.8 in China and a surprisingly high 28.9 in South Korea.
According to the report, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 29 in 2012. The highest rate across the age groups was among people over 70.
The most common suicide methods globally were poisoning by pesticide, hanging and firearms. The report noted the prevalence of suicides by gas poisoning in Japan.
The report found a link between mental illnesses such as depression, and suicide, noting that there were also many cases of impulsive suicides stemming from financial and medical problems.
Suicide rates were higher among homosexual people, refugees, incarcerated people and those who had lived through war or disasters.
The WHO called for authorities to bring down suicide rates by improving early diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and arranging follow-up care for people who attempt suicide.