Covid 19 vs Suicide in Japan
The pandemic that we continue to face due to COVID-19 has had a huge effect on everyone's lives. Many of us face stress on a daily basis with challenges that can be overwhelming and provoke strong emotions in adults and children. Public health measures, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can leave people feeling isolated, increasing stress and anxiety. Experts have warned that the pandemic could trigger a mental health crisis. Mass unemployment, social isolation and anxiety are taking their toll on people around the world. In Japan, government statistics show that suicide claimed more lives in October than COVID-19 throughout 2020 to date. The monthly number of suicides in Japan rose to 2,153 in October, according to the Japan National Police Agency.
Japan is one of the few major economies to release timely suicide data; the most recent national data for the US, for example, is from 2018. Japanese data could provide other countries with information about the impact of pandemic measures on mental health and which groups are the most vulnerable.
Japan has long struggled with one of the highest suicide rates in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In 2016, Japan had a suicide death rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people, second only to South Korea in the Western Pacific region and nearly double the annual world average of 10.6 per 100,000 people. While the reasons for the high suicide rate in Japan are complex, long working hours, school pressure, social isolation and a cultural stigma around mental health issues have been cited as contributing factors. But for the 10 years leading up to 2019, the number of suicides had been declining in Japan, falling to around 20,000 last year, according to the Health Ministry. It is the lowest number since the country's health authorities began keeping records in 1978.
The pandemic appears to have reversed that trend, and the rise in suicides has disproportionately affected women. Although they account for a smaller proportion of all suicides than men, the number of women taking their own lives is increasing. In October, female suicides in Japan increased by almost 83% compared to the same month the previous year. By comparison, male suicides rose nearly 22% over the same time period.