Money woes blamed for Japan's rise in suicides

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The Independent Online

Japan's grim reputation as one of the suicide capitals of the world was confirmed yesterday with the release of statistics showing that a record 34,427 people took their own lives in 2003. More than a quarter of them did so because of financial problems.

Japan's grim reputation as one of the suicide capitals of the world was confirmed yesterday with the release of statistics showing that a record 34,427 people took their own lives in 2003. More than a quarter of them did so because of financial problems.

The figure, which works out at 94 suicides a day, broke the previous record of 33,048, set in 1999 and was heavily weighted by middle-aged and retired salarymen, the backbone of Japan's world-beating corporations - more than 70 per cent of the victims were males aged 40 or above. The statistics, compiled by the National Police Agency, also showed a worrying rise in young suicides, with the rate for primary and middle- school pupils rising 60 per cent.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the figures, which are more than twice as high as Britain and three times higher than fatalities from traffic accidents in Japan, were "worrying" and promised his government would continue its efforts to improve the economic situation. But he is already coming under fire for not doing enough to stem what many here are calling a suicide epidemic. Even the conservative Yomiuri newspaper - traditionally a staunch supporter of Mr Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic party - called yesterday for the government to do more to tackle the problem.

After varying for years between 20,000 to 24,000 cases a year, the number of suicides in Japan rose dramatically by 35 per cent following the Asian economic rash of 1997/98, and it has stayed above 30,000 since.

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