Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 11:24 UK

Elderly suicides surge in Japan

Elderly women pray at a shrine in northern Tokyo in November 2007
Japan's elderly are worried about financial issues and rising health costs

The number of elderly people who killed themselves in Japan surged in 2007, government figures showed.

Suicides involving people over the age of 60 rose by almost 9% to 12,107, making up nearly 40% of all cases in Japan, the National Police Agency said.

Japan's elderly are increasingly concerned about money and rising health care costs.

Nationwide, the number of suicides rose by 2.9% to 33,093, the second-highest figure since records began in 1978.

Aging society

Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates.

Last year ministers approved a raft of measures to try to reduce this, such as more workplace counselling and blocking websites that offer suicide tips.

But it appears that the measures have yet to yield results.

Recent months have seen a rash of cases where people killed themselves by mixing chemicals to produce toxic gas.

Police said that the main causes of suicide were depression, illness and debt.

But the elderly have been particularly hard-hit by issues linked to Japan's ageing society.

Health insurance costs have risen and people are increasingly concerned that the state will not be able to support them properly.

A recent scandal involving millions of lost pension records has exacerbated concern over social security issues.

And as the traditional family structure has changed, some elderly people are worried that there will be no family members to care for them in their old age.

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