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New trends in suicide in Japan
  1. E B R Desapriya*,
  2. N Iwase*
  1. *Institute of Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan and
  2. BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, Centre for Community Health Research, Vancouver, Canada; edesap{at}

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    Suicide is the 10th leading cause of mortality in the world. It is just as common as road traffic deaths1 and a leading cause of death among the young. 2002 was the fifth consecutive year where there were more than 30 000 suicide deaths. The rate in Japan, 25 per 100 000, greatly exceeds that of the UK (7.4 per 100 000) and that of the US or Germany, 12 and 15.8, respectively.2 In 2002, 32 143 suicides were reported; this is an increase of 3.5% from 2001.

    In Japan suicide victims are mostly young adults. Among those 15–24 and 40–54 it is the second leading cause of death and in 25–39 year age group it is the leading cause of death.2 The rate in middle aged men (40–54 years) was five times higher than in women, perhaps because of the association between suicide, unemployment, and economic recession.3

    The suicide rate per 100 000 population in Japan increased from 1995 to 2000: 17.2 in 1995, 25.4 in 1998, 25.0 in 1999, and 24.1 in 2000 (source: Vital Statistics 20002).

    Suicide is a public health problem that requires an evidence based approach to prevention.4 The stigma associated with suicide and mental illness prompts the view that these are shameful or sinful conditions. This is also a barrier to treatment for persons with suicidal desires or who have attempted suicide in the past.5 Many suicides are preventable but as with other injuries, effective suicide prevention programs require commitment and resources.6


    This brief review is supported by the Japan Society for promotion of Sciences (JSPS).


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