Big in Japan: Why Japan leads the world in suicide

Before you read any further, please adhere to the following warning:

Although it’s the Holiday season, this post most likely is going to depress the hell out of you, especially if you’re living in Japan.

Are you still with me? Alright then, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

This week, the Japanese government announced that the number of suicides in the country topped 30,000 for the ninth straight year in a row. Clearly, this was one record that they were not happy to achieve.

At the press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said that a combination of economic hardships and job stress were the leading factors behind the high suicide rate.

Although the government said that employers were obliged to treat depression at the workplace, they are also proposing a range of measures including raising society’s awareness of depression and promoting mental health programs.

In fact, the government hopes that by the year 2016, they will have succeeded in cutting the number of suicides by 20 percent. “This is a problem that needs to be dealt with comprehensively by society,” Machimura told reporters.


The raw data on suicides is, to say the least, all together depressing.

According to government projections, 32,155 people killed themselves last year, which was a decrease of 397 from the previous year.

However, according to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO), Japan’s suicide rate remains the ninth-highest in the world.

(In case you were wondering, Lithuania had the highest suicide rate, followed by Belarus and Russia. And, for the record, the United States ranked No. 43 in the report).

So why exactly do so many people in Japan kill themselves?

Although it’s difficult to objectively measure quality of life, Machimura believes that Japanese people are strongly impacted by financial pressures and job stress.

“Suicide rates tend to rise when there is a recession and long working hours may also have an influence” said Machimura.

However, despite the monumental task ahead, Machimura is convinced that the government can effectively reduce suicide rates. “Suicide can be prevented. A sickness of the heart is a sickness, therefore it can be cured.”


Government findings also indicated that the highest rates of suicide were in the northern prefecture of Akita. The report also found that men are more likely to commit suicide than women, and that Monday was the most popular day for ending one’s life as opposed to a Saturday or holiday.

In regards to methodology, the most common method of suicide chosen by Japanese people is hanging, while young people prefer to asphyxiate themselves on the carbon monoxide from charcoal burners.

The report also highlighted the sad reality that Tokyo train services are frequently halted by people jumping on the tracks.

As I said, today’s post was anything but shiny and happy, though hopefully everyone reading this can take a moment to appreciate the value of their lives, and head into the weekend with a smile their face.

On that note, please do smile – sometimes it truly is the best medicine!