Suicides in Japan hit a nine-year low in 2010 but still topped 30,000 for a 13th year in a row, police data showed Thursday.

Japan, with a population of 128 million, has long had one of the world's highest suicide rates, behind only a group of former Soviet bloc countries, says the World Health Organization.

Last year the grim toll dropped 3.5 percent to 31,690 - or 87 deaths a day - the lowest level since 2001, said the National Police Agency.

Half of all suicides were due to health reasons, according to farewell letters and other evidence, and about 4,500 related mainly to family troubles, according to the figures.

Suicides related to economic problems dropped 11.2 percent to about 7,400 - partly due to tighter rules against loan sharks, police and experts said.

Annual suicides topped 30,000 in Japan for the first time in 1998, at time of many corporate bankruptcies and rising unemployment.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has repeatedly voiced concern over Japan's high suicide rate and Tuesday convened a meeting of a task force that aims to find ways to reduce the toll, Kyodo News reported.

"The annual number of people who committed suicide exceeded 30,000 for the 13th straight year and I strongly want this level to be reduced," Kan said.