Suicides, depression cost Japan's economy $32 billion last year

TOKYO (AP) — Suicides and other depression cases cost Japan's economy about 2.7 trillion yen ($32 billion) last year, the government said Wednesday, releasing such data for the first time in a bid to raise public awareness of the nation's long-battled social woe.

The figure included an estimated income of 1.9 trillion yen that could have been earned by working-age people who committed suicide in 2009.

The government said releasing such data for the first time was part of its efforts to boost public awareness of Japan's suicide problems.

"In addition to the human toll, we want to show the economic toll from suicides is very high and grave," said health ministry official Yukiko Nakatani.

Japan has long battled a high suicide rate. In 2009, 32,845 people killed themselves, topping 30,000 for the 12th consecutive year. Police data showed depression and economic struggles, including losing jobs, were among the top reasons for suicides.

The government also calculated that people suffering from depression would have earned 109 billion yen if they had not left work. The remaining costs were accounted for by jobless benefits for those suffering from depression plus government medical costs and social security payments.

Japan's suicide rate of 36.5 per 100,000 people for men ranked the second-highest among the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations after 70.6 for Russian men, according to the World Health Organization. In third for G-8 nations was France, with a rate of 26.1 per 100,000 for men.

The suicide rate of 14.1 per 100,000 people for Japanese women ranked the top among the G-8 nations.