1 in 4 People Contemplate SuicideThe Nippon Foundation survey of 400,000 people indicates 530,000 people have attempted suicide in the past year
Ahead of the WHO-designated World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, The Nippon Foundation, as part of its Suicide Prevention Project, conducted a large-scale suicide awareness survey among 40,000 people nationwide. The results, announced at a press conference on September 7, showed that one in four people have “seriously contemplated suicide,” shedding light on the actual state of this serious problem. This was the first large-scale suicide awareness survey conducted in Japan, and in addition to the fact that one in five people is close to someone who committed suicide, the results showed that the risk of suicide is highest among relatively young people aged 20-39, and that an estimated 530,000 people nationwide had attempted suicide during the past year. These results were consistent with a survey carried out by the Cabinet Office four years ago (with roughly 2,000 responses nationwide), and reaffirm the importance of strengthening early countermeasures.
The project’s advisory committee compiled 53 survey questions related to suicide, and in August sent the survey to persons over the age of 20 registered with an outside survey organization until the statistically required 40,000 replies were received. The replies were then analyzed by age and sex. According to the survey, roughly one in four people (25.4%) replied that they have had suicidal thoughts (28.4% of women and 22.6% of men), and of this group 13.5% replied that they currently have or have had suicidal thoughts in the past year. By age, of all respondents, those in their 20s had the highest rate of suicidal thoughts, at 34.9%. The highest ranking reasons, in order, were problems at work, financial difficulties, and health problems for men, and problems at home, health problems, and problems at school for women. In addition, the roughly one in five people (21.7%) who had someone close to them commit suicide broke down as family members at 11.3%, friends at 10.1%, and boyfriends/girlfriends at 0.3%. Breaking down the survey results by prefecture and age, and extrapolating from this using 2015 census data, works out to an estimated 535,000 persons nationwide who have attempted suicide. By age the largest group was people in their 20s, at more than 150,000, followed by people in their 30s, at more than 120,000.
Estimate of number of persons in Japan who have attempted suicide during the past year, by age
|Age||No. of persons|
|20-29||151,000 – 234,000|
|30-39||128,000 – 204,000|
|40-49||72,000 – 132,000|
|50-59||21,000 – 57,000|
|60-64||2,000 – 18,000|
|65 and over||4,000 – 41,000|
Of the people who responded that they had attempted suicide during the past year, 49% of women and 37% of men had attempted suicide four times or more. Another finding was that 74% of people who had had suicidal thoughts, and 51% of people who had attempted suicide, did not talk to anyone about this.
The Nippon Foundation launched the Suicide Prevention Project following the revision of the Basic Act for Suicide Prevention in April 2016, and based on the survey results, has begun initiatives to prevent suicide through comprehensive support for living, and to strengthen support for high-risk individuals including younger persons and persons who have attempted suicide. The Foundation is also working to create suicide prevention models in cooperation with Nagano Prefecture and Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward. An agreement to work with the suicide prevention nonprofit organization Lifelink to create a model for suicide prevention in Nagano Prefecture was signed on September 14. The Foundation also hopes to compile suicide countermeasures in both Nagano and Edogawa by 2018.
At the September 7 press conference, The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa explained the impetus behind the project, emphasizing, “People tend to think of suicide as an individual problem, but we need to understand it as a social problem. Support for living is the essence of suicide prevention, and we need to build social frameworks to achieve this.” The number of suicides in Japan surpassed 30,000 in 1998, and stayed above 30,000 until 2009, but has gradually been decreasing since then. Nevertheless, there were still 24,000 suicides in Japan in 2015, meaning that 65 people committed suicide each day. This works out to the highest rate among the G7 countries, and twice the rate in the United States and three times the rate in Britain. Japan is also the only G7 country where suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 39, indicating that this continues to be a serious problem.
Communications Department The Nippon Foundation