The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted Japan's battle with high suicide rates as the number of people taking their own lives has risen for the first time in more than a decade.
According to figures released by Japan's health and welfare ministry, 20,919 people took their own lives in 2020, up 3.7 percent from the year before. In contrast, COVID-19 took the lives of 3,460 people in the Asian nation.
Women and children took their lives at higher rates, the numbers show. While suicides among men actually slightly fell compared to the 2019 numbers, over 14 percent more suicides were recorded among women.
Increasing unemployment for women and extra burdens at home maybe among the problems driving the higher rates, Michiko Ueda, an associate professor of political science at Waseda University in Tokyo, said, as cited by AFP.
Additionally, according to a December survey by the broadcaster NHK, 28 percent of women reported spending more time on housework during the pandemic, compared with 19 percent of men.
Japan's suicide rate peaked in 2003 at around 34,000 people. Since then, the Japanese government has been making efforts to curb the nation's exceptionally high rates, including addressing deaths linked to overwork and introducing online counselling.