The latest victim of economic recession in Japan is people’s lives
During an economic recession news is usually filled with how corporations are posting losses, or how smaller businesses are filing for bankruptcy. On a more personal level news stories are filled with how the unemployed are finding new means of income, and how families might deal with parents having to work night jobs. The social impact as a whole during a recession is rarely commented on, probably mainly because there are no easily interpreted indicators that measure social well being. Deaths could possibly increase, but usually in America this is due to murder rates.
Take a society like Japan, and unfortunately one of the easiest indicators to measure happiness in the country as a whole is the suicide rate. Today the newspapers each reported differently on the news that Japan this year has had record suicide rates.
Nikkei “Suicides break 17,000 in the first half of 2009” According to data collected by police stations, from January to June of 2009 17, 076 suicides were reported in Japan. Compared to last year, the Nikkei claims these numbers have grown 4.7% , or close to 800 people. Experts in the field are now concerned that 2009 could be the highest recording of suicides ever in Japanese history.
According to the Nikkei, an overwhelming majority of suicides were male: 71.6%, or 12,222 people. The areas with the highest rates of suicide are Tokyo (number 1), Osaka 2nd, and Saitama 3rd. It’s probably no coincidence that these areas also have the highest concentration of businesses and employed salarymen.
The amount of people committing suicide has also grown percentage wise. The most extreme case is Okinawa, which grew by 51% compared to last year.
Yomiuri “Suicides Reach 17,000, the worst pace ever” The Yomiuri claims that the pace of suicides this year is much faster than last year, and close to the worst year on record, 2003. In 2003 34,000 people committed suicide. This year, the worst months according to the Yomiuri were March and April, with 3,084 people committing suicide. Since then the numbers have come slightly down.
The Yomiuri claims that the pace of suicides this year is the worst since data began to be collected in 1978.
Asahi “Suspected Tornado Injures 20” The Asahi actually did not print an article about the suicides, but instead for their headline wrote about the recent (suspected) tornado in Gunma Prefecture. Tornados are very rare in Japan, but this incident seems to prove that a tornado did occur. The wind was recorded to be strong enough to rattle the roofs of houses, turn 10 cars over in a parking lot, and shatter windows of nearby shops and offices.