Suicide Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Japan
Online Presentation, November 04, 2020
As part of the Suessmilch Lecture series, Michiko Ueda from Waseda University, Tokyo presented the monthly trajectories of suicide deaths by sex, age group and occupation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, using the latest suicide death records up to September 2020.
Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the OECD countries. Its suicide rate (the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 population) as of 2018 was 16.5; more than 20,000 people ended their life by suicide in that year alone. We present the monthly trajectories of suicide deaths by sex, age group and occupation during the COVID-19 pandemic, using the latest suicide death records up to September 2020. We found that the number of suicide deaths in Japan temporarily declined during the initial phase of the pandemic, but starting in July 2020, it subsequently surged during the second phase of the pandemic. A particularly large increase was observed among relatively young women (less than 40 years old) and students. We also present evidence on deteriorating mental health status and adverse economic conditions among young women using original monthly surveys of the general population. The talk concludes by presenting some of the preliminary findings from text analysis of an online forum and tweets that might help us understand the factors behind the observed increase in suicide deaths during the current pandemic.
Michiko Ueda is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Political Science and Economics at Waseda University, in Tokyo, Japan. Prior to joining Waseda University, she has taught at Syracuse University and California Institute of Technology. Her research interests include suicide prevention, and public health, and public policy. Her work has appeared in International Journal of Epidemiology, Preventive Medicine, Plos One, and Journal of Affective Disorders, among others. Her latest publications include Economic Analysis of Suicide Prevention (2017, Springer) and “Covariance in diurnal patterns of suicide-related expressions on Twitter and recorded suicide deaths” (Social Science and Medicine, 2020) and “Tweeting celebrity suicides: Users' reaction to prominent suicide deaths on Twitter and subsequent increases in actual suicides” (Social Science and Medicine, 2017). She received her Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).