Originally posted 22 Feb 21
Here is an excerpt:
Loneliness has long been an issue in Japan, often discussed alongside "hikikomori," or people who live in extreme social isolation. People have worked to create far-ranging solutions to this issue: Engineers in Japan previously designed a robot to hold someone's hand when they're lonely and one man charges people to "do nothing" except keep them company.
A rise in suicides during the pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with people more socially isolated than ever, Japan saw a rise in suicides for the first time in 11 years.
In October, more people died from suicide than had died from COVID-19 in Japan in all of 2020. There were 2,153 suicide deaths that month and 1,765 total virus deaths up to the end of October 2020, per the Japanese National Police Agency. (After a surge in new cases starting in December, Japan has now recorded 7,506 total coronavirus deaths as of February 22.) Studies show that loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of health issues like heart disease, dementia, and eating disorders.
Women in Japan, in particular, have contributed to the uptick in suicides. In October, 879 women died by suicide in Japan — a 70% increase compared to the same month in 2019.
More and more single women live alone in Japan, but many of them don't have stable employment, Michiko Ueda, a Japanese professor who studies suicide in Japan, told the BBC last week.
"A lot of women are not married anymore," Ueda said. "They have to support their own lives and they don't have permanent jobs. So, when something happens, of course, they are hit very, very hard."