Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION ... 2
SUICIDE RATES IN JAPAN ... 3
DEMOGRAPHIC DATA REGARDING SUICIDE RATES ... 3
SUICIDE RATE DISTRIBUTION IN RESPECT TO SEX ... 4
SUICIDE RATE DISTRIBUTION IN RESPECT TO AGE ... 4
DISTRIBUTION IN RESPECT TO SUICIDE MOTIVE ... 4
SUICIDE CAUSES ... 4
GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION ... 5
TECHNOLOGY: MEDIA AS SOCIAL SPACE ... 6
NEWSPAPER REPORTS, INTERNET USE AND SUICIDE ... 6
CONCLUSION ... 7
In this paper I will explore the dual nature of the relationship between suicide and
technology in contemporary Japan, reviewing its most important causes over history, major
developments and current trends, by means of reviewing some of the relevant scholarship,
as well as discussing official and other public discourses on this topic. Furthermore, I will
examine the role of the Internet and online media as social space for researching,
discussing and (re)thinking suicide and its possible role as one such space in the
developments of suicide rates in recent years.
In the beginning I will summarize my findings regarding the official data in form of
statistics and other relevant information available to the public, concerning social groups
that are detected as most vulnerable, as well as some of the more common causes of suicide,
also minding some other relevant aspects and factors of the issue, such as prevention
I will then focus on outlining the theoretical framework so as to enable myself and the
reader to think of 1) suicide and technology as of mutually interdependent social and
cultural phenomena and of 2) technological representation of suicide as of materialization
of the culture that it stems from (Rammert 2007: 484). This is necessary in order to be able
to grasp in what ways technology creates social space for understanding suicide, or in other
words how technological advancement 'acts as an integral constituent of social
transformation' (Rammert 2007: 487).
I will concentrate on printed and online media alike and the internet as a whole with focus
on social networks in particular.
Finally, I will attempt to answer the question whether technology and suicide rates in Japan
correlate with one another and if so, in what ways. To accomplish this, I will try to
approach the findings presented in chosen current studies from a theoretical standpoint
outlined throughout this paper.
SUICIDE RATES IN JAPAN
According to the WHO (2014: 2) there are approximately 800,000 cases of fatal self-harm
worldwide every year. Although this is a globally widespread issue, the situation in Japan
has long been worse than in most of the industrialized world, including all of the OECD
countries (up till 2011) (Andrés et al. 2011: 724-725) to an extent that it is being
characterized as a 'suicide epidemic' (Kuroki 2010: 683). In comparison, Japan also shows a
more consistent correlation between socioeconomic factors and suicide trends than other
nations (Andrés et al. 2011: 724).
Despite this tendency, ongoing for over half of a century, suicide has only recently become
part of the public discourse and is hence being officially addressed, namely after the 1998
increase in the number of suicides of roughly 35%, going from 23,494 in 1997 to 31,755 in
the following year (Ono et al. 2008: 316, Cabinet Office, 2013: 2).
To this point, this had been the 'highest rate of increase recorded ever since the Ministry
began tracking mortality statistics' (Ibid.). The number of suicides remained high in
subsequent years, reaching 29,949 in 2002 and 32,109 in 2003. Having remained on the
same level of around 30,000 per year, the number has slightly dropped in the recent years,
coming down to 29,524 in 2010 and 26,063 cases in 2013, however still being one of the
main causes of death of men in their 20s, 30s and 40s and becoming the lead cause of death
for people of both sexes between the age of 15 and 39 (SB, MIAC 2011: 176; SB, MIAC 2015:
DEMOGRAPHIC DATA REGARDING SUICIDE RATES
In this subchapter I will make a brief overview of the official data regarding the
demographic distribution of suicide rates, minding the following categories: age, sex,
suicide motive and region. Analysis of the causes will be presented in a separate chapter.
SUICIDE RATE DISTRIBUTION IN RESPECT TO SEX
In line with the global trend (WHO 2014: 2), Japan also has a much higher suicide rate
among men than among women. According to the Vital Statistics of Ministry of Health,
Labour and Welfare, also quoted in the White Paper on Suicide Prevention (Cabinet Office,
2013: 23), female suicide rates have almost always ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 yearly,
steadying at around 8,000 in the last couple of years.
SUICIDE RATE DISTRIBUTION IN RESPECT TO AGE
In the course of the economic crises and subsequent social transformations at the shift of
millennia, suicide rates of people in their 20s to 50s rose, whereas that of people in their
60s and over decreased (Cabinet Office 2013: 14). That of people in their 50s and over is
now lower than it was the year immediately before the sharp increase in 1998. Current
vulnerability prediction according to the decade of life in order from most to least
vulnerable goes as follows: people in their 50s, 60s, 40s, 30s and 20s.
DISTRIBUTION IN RESPECT TO SUICIDE MOTIVE
The White Paper of the Japanese Government, based on quantitative data gathered from
the National Police Agency, suggests that the motives for suicide are 'the most associated
with "health issues" followed by "economic and livelihood issues," "family issues," "work-
related issues"' etc. (Cabinet Office 2013: 15).
Much like in the rest of the developed world, suicide causes in Japan encompass a wide
scope of psychological and sociological determinants, none of which are more important
than the others (Ozawa-De Silva 2010: 413). Extensive quantitative and qualitative
research from both private and public initiatives has been conducted over the years in
order to better understand these reasons in an attempt to assert control over suicide rates,
mostly by focusing on the aspect of social integration.
Excerpt out of 10 pages
- Quote paper
- Aleksandar Zlatić (Author), 2015, Suicide and Technology. The influence of online media on suicide rates in Japan, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/376482