Japan has been spared the worst of the pandemic, but authorities are alarmed by a sharp rise in suicides this year, especially among women. Japan already had the highest suicide rate among G7 nations, with the US close behind, and October was the worst month for suicides in more than 5 years, with at least 2,135 people taking their own lives, CNN reports. That's more than the 2,087 who have died from COVID-19 in Japan since the pandemic began. Around 17,000 people in Japan have died by suicide so far this year, with the rate among women, who make up around a third of the total, up by a shocking 80%, reports CBS. Japan never had a full lockdown, but the tourism, restaurant, and retail industries, where women make up a large proportion of workers, have been hit hard by restrictions.
"We didn't even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries ... but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides," Michiko Ueda, a suicide prevention expert at Waseda University in Tokyo, tells CNN. "That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future." The suicide rate in South Korea is also up, especially among young women. Joo Ji-young, deputy head of the Seoul Suicide Prevention Center, tells the Washington Post that a side effect of social distancing has been increased "psychological distance" between people. The Post notes that a spate of celebrity suicides in Japan and South Korea may have contributed to the rise in suicides in both countries. (Read more Japan stories.)