Why women are committing more suicides than men in the Season of Covid-19?

30th November 2020

30th November 2020

Eriko Kobayashi has tried suicide four times. First time when she was just 22 old because she didn’t have enough money to pay her rent and grocery bills despite having a full-time job.

Now 43, she has a steady job at NGO and has written several books on mental health but she says Coronavirus is bringing back the stress she used to feel. She constantly feels a sense of crisis.

Experts have lately warned that the pandemic could lead to a mental health crisis, mass unemployment, anxiety, and social isolation. And increased suicide numbers from Japan and South Korea are offering the first glimpse into the impact of Covid-19 on mental health.

Japan and South Korea are among the few major economies that timely publish the data on suicides as it forms one of the persistent societal issues in the country.  In Japan, government statics show suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date, making the number rose to 2,153, the highest monthly count in more than five years.

As per the research conducted by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the summer, 1 out of 10 people has considered suicide in October, with women and young adults the worst affected.

Between July and October, at least 2,810 Japanese women took their own lives, nearly 41 percent more than the 1,994 who died by suicide in the same period last year, the reports showed.

Preliminary data by age group shows the sharpest rise in people younger than 29.

The Ministry of Health stated that Japan is the only country where suicide is the major reason behind the death of 15 to 34 years old.

What is essential to consider from this data is Japan never imposed sweeping lockdowns, which is seen in almost every corner of the globe and it is not during the period of crisis that people took their lives. It was when people were getting close to “semi-normal life”.

When the economy started reopening, portions of the population were left behind — like laid-off workers or those who continued to be stuck at home. Schools restarted in June and saw an increase in reports of bullying and added stress about catching up on schoolwork. The impact was so bad that kids as young as 5 years old could be seen talking about dying. The stress to keep the business afloat, less socializing, online classes added to the psychological distress.

Men accounted for 70 percent of the 20,169 suicides in Japan last year but the pandemic has reversed the trend and suicides have badly affected women.

The trend in Japan reveals that the pandemic’s adding new, potentially deadly stressors: calls to domestic violence helplines have risen as families remain trapped at home together.

Economically also, the coronavirus has disproportionately affected women, who are more likely to be in irregular employment in retail or service industries — they made up nearly 66 percent of recent job losses in Japan.

The trends are similar in neighboring South Korea. In South Korea, suicides in the capital, Seoul, have increased by 4.8 percent in the first half of the year, also led by young women.

Generally, depression is more common in women and addiction is more common in men, so the prolonged pandemic might have affected the rise in the female suicide rate, said Paik Jong-woo, the head of South Korea’s Suicide Prevention Center.

Just like Japan, the suicide prevention hotlines received a record number of calls in South Korea too.  South Korea’s health ministry informed that the number of people admitted to emergency rooms for attempted suicide nationally rose 10 percent in the first eight months of the year.

Apart from the pandemic, what essentially triggered the people and increased the anxiety and depression among them was the suicide attempted by their celebrity idols. A number of celebrities including actors and K-Pop stars Sulli and Goo Hara have taken their lives and this has caused the feeling of despair among people and seems to push people towards suicide.

(This is a rewrite from a Washington Post article).

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