Suicides over lost jobs up sharply

Suicides in Japan in 2009 stayed above 30,000 for the 12th consecutive year, but those linked to job losses spiked, defying claims that the economy is on the mend, a National Police Agency survey showed Thursday.

The number of suicides in the reporting year totaled 32,845, up 1.85 percent from the preceding year, the NPA said in a revised report.

Of the total, 24,434, or 74 percent, were listed as suicides with causes that were clarified by notes left by the victims or by the knowledge of people close to them, the NPA said.

Suicides traced to job losses, however, surged 65.3 percent to 1,071, while those attributed to hardships jumped 34.3 percent to 1,731.

Depression continued to top the list of reasons for the third consecutive year, rising 7.1 percent from the previous year to 6,949.

The NPA revised the categorization of reasons and motives for suicide in 2007. Under the new breakdown, suicides are divided into 50 categories, with up to three categories listed for each suicide.

The rate of suicides, or the number per 100,000 people, came to 24.1 among those in their 20s, an all-time high for that age group for the second straight year, and 26.2 among those in their 30s, a record for the third year in a row, the NPA said.

The rates topped 30 among people in their 40s to 60s, it added.

The number of suicides in Japan grew sharply in October 2008 — a month after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, throwing the global economy into a prolonged recession.

In 2009, monthly suicides increased from year-before levels from January to August. They were especially rampant in March, April and May, when suicides topped 3,000 in each month as financial demands due to the fiscal yearend apparently picked up during the period, said the NPA.

Since the turn of 2010, however, the number of suicides has tended to decline, falling 9.0 percent from a year before to 10,309 in January-April, according to a preliminary figure compiled by the NPA.