|Saturday, 26 July 2003|
Japan's economic woes keep suicides near record high
TOKYO, Friday (Reuters) The number of Japanese who took their own lives because of economic problems hit a record high in 2002 and the overall suicide total was above 30,000 for the fifth consecutive year, police figures show.
Nearly 25 percent of those who killed themselves, some 7,940 people, were pushed to desperation by a prolonged economic slump that has lifted the unemployment rate to a postwar high.
That was a jump of 1,095 from 2001, according to police data released late on Thursday.
The total number of suicides rose to 32,143, up 3.5 percent from the year before and the third worst on record after 1999, when 33,048 people killed themselves.
Nearly half of those who committed suicide did not have jobs and a majority was aged 40 or over. The number of Japanese suicides remains roughly equal to that of the United States, which has twice Japan's population. No religious prohibition exists against suicide in Japan and it was long seen as a way to escape failure or of saving loved ones from embarrassment.
Experts warn that blaming suicide on a single cause is simplistic, but most acknowledge that Japan's economic downturn over the past decade has had a disastrous effect.
Middle-aged men are especially vulnerable, with few of them, hired in an era of lifetime employment, equipped to cope when they lose the jobs that are their identity. More men than women committed suicide in 2002 - 23,080 men compared to 9,063 women. People over 60 made up the largest group for both sexes, a total of 11,119.
The main reason for suicide remains health problems, the police said, attributing 14,815 deaths to that factor.
Police also reported a disturbing new trend - people who die together in groups after making suicide pacts over the Internet.
Produced by Lake House