A perspective in epidemiology of suicide in Japan

Vojnosanit Pregl. 2006 Jun;63(6):575-83. doi: 10.2298/vsp0606575y.


Background/aim: According to the information about deaths from any causes, provided by the vital statistics based on the WHO Member Countries mortality and morbidity, suicide rate in Japan has been ranking high among the causes of death. The number of suicides goes on increasing every year in Japan. In fact, suicide rates per 100 000 population have already reached the sixth place among the leading causes of death. The aim of this study was to perform epidemiological surveys of suicide rates, obtained from the official vital statistics provided by the WHO on mortality and morbidity during several past decades in Japan.

Methods: Completed suicide data were collected via the vital statistics by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry (MHLW), Japan and the attempted suicide data were extracted from the Annual Report of the Ambulance and Rescue Activities by the Fire Prevention and Control Office (FPCO) in Kobe City. The data were examined on the basis of social factors including economic trends, gender differences, modus operandi of suicide, age group, and physical and mental disorders in suicidal behavior and compared to international data.

Results: Male suicide rates have gradually increased with the four temporal steep risings during the 20th century, while those of females have generally reached the stabilisation with no fluctuations. Suicides are not always under the influence of economic trends in Japan. Suicide rate was the highest in the Akita and Iwate prefectures, known for the low population density. Suicide rate increases with aging, reaching a peak in the age of 80 and over. The trends of completed suicide rates are elevating by males about twice the suicide rate of females which keeps on stable. On the other hand, female attempted suicide rates greatly increase from two to five times more than those in males which are generally close to the constant. The majority of suicides are caused by their physical and/or mental disorders including typical depressive states. Suffocations/hangings are the most common methods used to commit suicide by both sexes. Utilities and interactions among these several components were considered, as well as a perspective of suicidal behavior.

Conclusion: In order to prevent suicide and avoid the worst tragedy for a family, it is an essential requirement to collect and analyze any information concerning suicide victims.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide / trends
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Attempted / trends