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Japan's suicide rate among worst for developed nations: health ministry

Japan has among the worst suicide rates for a developed nation, with annual suicide deaths averaging 19.5 per 100,000 people, a comparative Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare study has shown.

    Since suicide rates by country cannot simply be compared due to differences in the credibility of each country's data and the frequency of data updates, the World Health Organization (WHO)'s first global suicide report compiled in 2014 did not include suicide rate rankings by country. Japan's health ministry used the WHO data and extracted countries with the highest suicide rates and that have data on their population and number of suicides from 2013 and later. The study will be published in a white paper on suicide prevention to be approved by the Cabinet in late May.

    Japan's suicide rate in 2014 was 19.5, the second highest in Asia after South Korea, which had a rate of 28.5 suicides per 100,000 people. The suicide rate among men living in Japan was 27.7, ranking 12th in the health ministry study, while the suicide rate of 11.7 among women was third from the top, following South Korea and Suriname. Among the eight major economies, the suicide rate in Japan (data from 2011-2014) was second highest, following Russia at 21.8.

    According to National Police Agency suicide statistics, the number of suicides in Japan was 21,897 -- 15,121 men and 6,776 women -- in 2016. The annual total has been dropping gradually after hitting a peak of 34,427 in 2003. However, the margin of decline among youths is small compared to that among men in middle age or older -- the demographic with the highest suicide rate in Japan. The white paper points out that the country must map out measures to hold down the suicide rate among those in their 20s and 30s.

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