Picture: 123RF/Jumlong Choochoui
Picture: 123RF/Jumlong Choochoui

Tokyo — Suicides in Japan in 2019 fell to an historic low, marking the 10th straight year of declines, but youth suicides continued to rise, police say.

Though suicide in Japan has a long history as a way of avoiding shame or dishonour, and its suicide rate still tops the Group of Seven nations, a national effort has brought suicides down by about 40% in 15 years.

Suicides totalled 20,169 in 2019, 617 or 3.7% fewer than the previous year, and was the lowest since the compilation of data began in 1978.

The suicide rate edged down to 16% per 100,000, a dip of 0.5% from the previous year and the lowest in history. By contrast, the suicide rate for the US, which has more than twice Japan’s population and a growing suicide problem, was 14.2% in 2018.

The number of those under 20 who took their lives rose by 60 from the previous year to 659, the only age group to see a rise. Though suicides result from multiple causes, bullying has remained a persistent problem in Japanese schools.

Suicides peaked at 34,427 in 2003, alarming policymakers and drawing foreign attention.

Though the police did not give any reason for the decline, an improving economy has undoubtedly helped, and a suicide prevention programme is apparently bearing fruit.