Study: Pandemic hikes Japanese suicides by 8K

TOKYO – The Covid-19 pandemic led to 8,000 more suicides in Japan between March 2020 and June 2022, more than what would have been expected in the period, a recent study said.

Women in their 20s accounted for the largest increase relative to what would have occurred had the pandemic not happen.

A relatively large number of women 19 years of age or younger committed suicide during the period, according to the study conducted by a team of researchers including Taisuke Nakata, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo.

“Women, who have more non-regular jobs than men, tend to be more affected economically, while young people are possibly more likely to be forced into isolation due to behavioral restrictions,” Nakata said, suggesting that financial stress contributes to an increase in the suicide rate in Japan.

Government data have shown the number of suicides totaled around 21,000 in 2020 and 2021, higher than the figure in the preceding two years which was around 20,000. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, however, had been unclear.

In Japan, economic hardship is believed to be one of the drivers of the suicide rate, as deaths tend to increase when the unemployment rate rises.

The survey team estimated the expected number of suicides for the period based on past trends with fluctuations in employment factored in and compared it to the actual figure. As a result, the number of suicides likely increased by 8,088, they believe.

By age group, people in their 20s accounted for the largest number of suicides at 1,837, with women totaling 1,092. Those 19 years old or younger accounted for 377, of which 282 were women.

Although government data showed suicides in Japan decreased by between 500 to 3,000 annually from 2010, the trend shifted upward in 2020 for the first time in 11 years. The figure remained almost the same in 2021.

While suicides among men declined for the 12th consecutive year, those by women increased for the second straight year. Suicides by elementary, junior high and high school students hit a record high of 499 in 2020 and remained at an inflated level. (Kyodo)