Over 8,000 more suicide deaths reported in Japan during pandemic, finds study

Representational image. AFP

Tokyo, Japan: A new study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in over 8,000 excess suicide deaths in Japan between March 2020 and June 2022, news agency Kyodo reported on Wednesday.

A group of researchers compared the expected number of suicides based on past trends with the actual number of suicide deaths over the given period. The team concluded that suicide mortality rose by 8,088 deaths during the pandemic.

The most affected group were women in their 20s, who accounted for the largest increase, but even younger females saw a considerable rise in suicide rates.

The research says that the pandemic caused 1,837 suicides of people in their 20s, while 1,092 of them were women. Women aged 19 and younger accounted for 282 out of 377 pandemic-related suicides.

“Women, who have more non-regular jobs than men, tend to be more affected economically, while young people are possibly more likely to be forced into isolation due to behavioral restrictions,” one of the researchers, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo Taisuke Nakata, told Kyodo.

Economic difficulties are believed to be the prime reason behind rising suicide rates in Japan, as suicide mortality tends to increase when unemployment is on the rise, the news agency said.

Fumio Otake, a specially appointed professor at Osaka University, called on the government to shift its policy by taking into account data such as the number of suicides.

“It is important to weigh in the risks of curbing coronavirus infections against stopping social and economic activities,” said Otake, who is also a member of the government’s panel on COVID-19 measures said.

He said it is necessary to relax measures, such as shortening the isolation period for infected patients to maintain socioeconomic activities.

Suicides in Japan have been decreasing annually since 2010. However, the downward trend reversed in 2020 and remained the same in 2021, according to government figures.

A collection of suicide prevention helpline numbers are available here. Please reach out if you or anyone you know is in need of support. The All-India helpline number is: 022-27546669

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