National / Social Issues

Suicides in Japan at historic low in 2019 but more teens kill themselves

Reuters

Suicides fell to a historic low in 2019, marking the tenth straight year of decline, but youth suicides continued to rise, police said Tuesday.

Though suicide in Japan has a long history as a way of avoiding shame or dishonor, and its suicide rate still tops the Group of Seven nations, a national effort has brought suicides down by about 40 percent in roughly 15 years.

Suicides totaled 20,169 in 2019 — 617, or 3.7 percent, fewer than the previous year — and were at their lowest incidence since compilation of data began in 1978.

The suicide rate edged down to 16 per 100,000, a dip of 0.5 from the previous year. By contrast, the comparable rate for the United States, which has more than twice Japan’s population and a growing suicide problem, was 14.2 in 2018.

The number of those under 20 who took their lives rose by 60 from the previous year to 659, making them the only age group to see a rise. Though suicides result from multiple causes, bullying has remained a persistent problem in schools.

Suicides peaked at 34,427 in 2003, alarming policymakers and drawing international attention.

Though police did not give any reason for the decline, an improving economy has undoubtedly helped, and a suicide prevention program is apparently bearing fruit.

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