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Okinawa suicides impact longevity rates

Date Posted: 2007-09-27

Okinawans are committing suicides at the rate of 27.5 per 100,000 population, a number that’s increasing even as the nationwide rate is dropping.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reports 7,744 Okinawans took their own lives during the 1975 ~ 2006 period, with the number of men increasing enough to drop Okinawa’s touted longevity rate from 4th to 26th place in the country. After release of the 2000 Longevity Report, Okinawans called the longevity status plunge “26th Shock”.

Officials call the numbers significant, and say Okinawa could have maintained its number one longevity ranking if the suicide numbers weren’t included in statistics. Okinawa Prefecture Police say 400 Okinawans committed suicide last year, an 11.5% increase over 2005.

The baby boom generation, those born between 1946 and 1949, are at an age when they struggle with their lives, how to spend time, what to do after retirement, or how to handle finances, according to the Prefecture Psychiatric Health Welfare Center. An official says people over 50 are more susceptible to becoming melancholy, sick or depressed, conditions that often lead to suicide attempts.

Prefecture officials say depression is the reason for 29.5% of suicides, followed by financial difficulties at 24.5%. Of those committing suicide, 60.8% are retired or unemployed.

The Prefecture is now working on a suicide prevention autonomy model from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Prefecture officials say they’re optimistic the program now being worked will prevent suicides.

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