Japan has the 10th highest suicide rate in the world, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown.
Excluding the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, Japan’s rate of suicides per 100,000 people is the highest among advanced nations.
In the previous WHO report in 1999, Japan was placed 23rd, based on 1996 figures. However, a sharp rise in suicides among men aged between 45 and 64 has pushed the rate higher.
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The WHO report said the number of suicides totaled about 1 million people worldwide, more than the collective number of people murdered and killed in armed conflicts.
The most recent available data from 99 countries was used in the WHO report. Japan’s rate was calculated on figures for 2000, with a total of 300,251 suicides.
The report named Lithuania as having the highest number of suicides — 44.7 per 100,000, based on 2002 figures, followed by the Russian Federation with a rate of 38.7 in 2002.
Japan had a suicide rate of 24.1 per 100,000 people (35.2 men and 13.4 women), raking 10th highest in the world. Figures for other countries included 10.4 in the United States for the year 2000 and 7.5 for the United Kingdom in 1999.
Commenting on Japan’s suicide rate, the WHO’s Mental Health division cited harsh economic conditions as a probable factor.
“Sufficient analysis has not been carried out, but work stress resulting from the recession seems to be a major reason for the increase,” a division official said. “Just as Japan has a culture of ‘hara-kiri,’ there are probably also cultural grounds in which suicide it tolerated.”