Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Earlier I wrote about suicides in Japan. I also recently wrote about the relationship between life insurance and murders. I found an interesting article in the Mainichi covering all of these issues.

This article is interesting because it points to life insurance as the cause of many suicides where life insurance is the only way to get out of debt. I guess the choice is either to kill yourself or someone else. ;-p They actually let you use your life insurance as collateral for home mortages in Japan..

MDN: WaiWai
From kamikaze to hara-kiri, Japanese just can't stop topping themselves

By Ryann Connell
Staff Writer

September 30, 2002

Any wonder, then, that Sunday Mainichi (10/6) refers to Japan as the suicide capital of the world -- a dubious honor also recently bestowed by the World Psychiatric Association.

"Considering that both Japanese men and women have the world's greatest longevity, it came as a shock to learn that we're also number one for suicides," psychiatry Assistant Prof. Kazuo Yamada tells Sunday Mainichi.

National Police Agency figures released earlier this year showed that 31,402 people committed suicide in Japan last year, 915 more than in 2001. It was the fourth consecutive year that deaths by suicide had topped the 30,000 barrier and has prompted calls that the Japanese government isn't doing enough to help its people. Men in their 40s or 50s account for about 40 percent of all Japan's suicides, with health and financial problems the main reasons why Japanese are taking their own lives.

Yet another interesting aspect of Japan's suicide rate is revealed by its skyrocketing since 1998.

"That year the unemployment rate also rose rapidly and people were suddenly getting laid off in large numbers. Suicides became prevalent particularly in 40-something or 50-something guys. Life insurance companies were thrown into a panic. The amount of life insurance payouts the companies had to pay in 1998 threw the entire industry into a crisis. The companies responded by doubling the waiting period before they'd make payouts on suicides. That stemmed the flow of people taking their own lives a little bit," Yamada tells Sunday Mainichi.

Industry figures agree with the claim.

"Usually, payouts aren't made in cases where the cause of death is clearly suicide. And it is true that the decision that companies made in 1999 to extend periods before payouts are made was based on the rising suicide rate," a spokesman for the Life Insurance Association of Japan says.

Indeed, life insurance payouts seem to be a vital factor in Japan's suicide rate. So much so, it seems, that they can almost be rated along with depression as one the major reasons people take their lives.

"Guys in their 40s or 50s, the one's who're most likely to commit suicide, have got kids and home loans, yet when they lose their jobs they have no idea how they're going to cope. All they can think about is how much harder things are going to get each year when it comes to paying their mortgage or for education," psychiatry professor Yamada tells Sunday Mainichi. "Eventually, they come to believe that the only way they can fulfill the responsibilities they have toward their family is to commit suicide and ensure those relatives who remain are set up financially for life."


O man, life insurance causes suicide? i hope not. I am sure there may be some who feel that the only way out is to get the insurance to pay, but they all have the 2 year exemption rule, so you can't just go buy insurance kill yourself the next day.

you would have had to have it for 2 years already. I guess I could see it happening for people who had it for a while and then got in real big trouble.

how sad. It's supposed to help families, and it ends up robbing them in exchange for money...

What the? Debt can make people kill themselves? HOLY S**T!