Social and Geographical Inequalities in Suicide in Japan from 1975 through 2005: A Census-Based Longitudinal Analysis

Etsuji Suzuki, Saori Kashima, Ichiro Kawachi, S. V. Subramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background:Despite advances in our understanding of the countercyclical association between economic contraction and suicide, less is known about the levels of and changes in inequalities in suicide. The authors examined social and geographical inequalities in suicide in Japan from 1975 through 2005.Methods:Based on quinquennial vital statistics and census data, the authors analyzed the entire population aged 25-64 years. The total number of suicides was 75,840 men and 30,487 women. For each sex, the authors estimated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% credible intervals (CIs) for suicide using multilevel logistic regression models with "cells" (cross-tabulated by age and occupation) at level 1, seven different years at level 2, and 47 prefectures at level 3. Prefecture-level variance was used as an estimate of geographical inequalities in suicide.Results:Adjusting for age and time-trends, the lowest odds for suicide was observed among production process and related workers (the reference group) in both sexes. The highest OR for men was 2.52 (95% CI: 2.43, 2.61) among service workers, whereas the highest OR for women was 9.24 (95% CI: 7.03, 12.13) among security workers. The degree of occupational inequalities increased among men with a striking change in the pattern. Among women, we observed a steady decline in suicide risk across all occupations, except for administrative and managerial workers and transport and communication workers. After adjusting for individual age, occupation, and time-trends, prefecture-specific ORs ranged from 0.76 (Nara Prefecture) to 1.36 (Akita Prefecture) for men and from 0.79 (Kanagawa Prefecture) to 1.22 (Akita Prefecture) for women. Geographical inequalities have increased primarily among men since 1995.Conclusions:The present findings demonstrate a striking temporal change in the pattern of social inequalities in suicide among men. Further, geographical inequalities in suicide have considerably increased across 47 prefectures, primarily among men, since 1995.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere63443
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 6 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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