COVID-19 pandemic linked to increased suicide rate in Japan
The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with an increased rate of suicide in Japan, especially among young adults in their 20s, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.
“During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there were concerns that suicides would increase due to changes in lifestyle that restricted human contact in schooling, employment and social activities,” Nobuyuki Horita, MD, PhD, professor in the department of pulmonology at Yokohama City University in Japan, and Sho Moriguchi, MD, PhD, instructor in the department of neuropsychiatry at Keio University School of Medicine in Japan, wrote. “Although several studies reported little or no increase in suicide rates in the early phase of the pandemic, to our knowledge there is no detailed report for the entire first year of the pandemic or longer.”
The researchers analyzed the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s data reporting on the monthly number of suicides of Japanese residents from January 2009 to September 2021 to compare pandemic suicide rates with pre-pandemic rates. Researchers estimated the monthly mortality incidence per 100,000 people both with and without the pandemic as a variable using multiple regression analysis. The pandemic period was defined as April 2020 to September 2021.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of suicide was found to be 17% higher in men (95% CI, 11.4-22.7) and 31% higher in women (95% CI, 22.8-39.2) compared with the researchers’ estimations.
Although no significant increase was observed in the early phase of the pandemic (April 2020 to June 2020), the monthly suicide incidence was found to have shifted upward after July 2020. Compared with April 2020, in April 2021 researchers observed 0.92 vs. 0.62 deaths per 100,000 people in women and 1.96 vs. 1.65 in men. The researchers also observed noticeable surges of suicide incidence among both women (0.69 vs. 1.10 deaths per 100,000 people) and men (1.88 vs. 2.34 deaths per 100,000 people) in their 20s.
They noted that the suicide rate showed a similar trend with the unemployment rate beginning in 2009, and seasonal variation was not found to significantly affect these trends.
“This cohort study examining national suicide data in Japan through September 2021 found that the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with an increase in suicide overall, and a specific increase among younger women,” the researchers concluded. “Our data highlighted a suicide increase that lasted more than a year in Japan after the initial phase of the pandemic.”