USA Today reports on the Japanese suicide epidemic, which is being fueled by economic hard-times as well as Japanese cultural traditions promoting suicide:
"Suicide is not considered a sin," says sociologist Masahiro Yamada of Chuo University in Tokyo. "We've made it a bit of a virtue."
A decade of weak economic growth and the unraveling of Japan's system of lifetime employment have left many middle-age and elderly men unemployed and in financial ruin. Among Japanese suicides, nearly 71% are men, more than 73% are 40 or older, and more than 57% are jobless.
For an unemployed, former "salaryman," suicide can be "a rational decision," Yamada says. When a man commits suicide in Japan, his beneficiaries can still collect his life insurance. And insurers pay off Japanese home mortgages when a family's breadwinner dies — even if the death is a suicide. "If he dies, the rest of the family gets money," Yamada says. "If he continues to live without a job, they will lose the house."