High suicide rate

Approximately 30,000 Japanese people commit suicide each year.

A new and growing disparity between socioeconomic brackets is leading to what has been a constant statistic since the Asian financial crisis of 1997, says Professor Yutaka Motohashi, Department of Public Health, Akita University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan

"Tellingly, the changes in the unemployment and suicide rates have been similar… It seems likely that this negative socioeconomic background is associated with the suicide trend in Japan."

Japan has the highest life expectancy rate in the world in part because of universal health insurance, compulsory primary education and a general healthy lifestyle, according to a new study.

Japanese babies born within the past few years will live to an average of 86 years old, said the study, conducted by the department of Global Health Policy at the University of Tokyo, and which appeared in the Lancet medical journal.

The study credited enhanced education and increased literacy of mothers in the early 20th century for playing  a role in increased child survival rates.

Government investments in public health in the 1950s and 60s decreased mortality rates for communicable diseases in children and young adults and boosted life expectancy at birth, the study found.

Salt reduction campaigns and certain drugs covered under health insurance also helped reduce stroke mortality rates, one of the major drivers of the sustained extension of Japanese longevity after the mid-1960s, the study found.

Researchers also noted the the culture's well balanced nutrional diet, "attention to hygiene in all aspects of their daily life" and a regular systematic check-up of the whole body as other contributing factors.

According to the study keeping that record could be a bit of a challenge.

"Further progress in Japan’s longevity primarily depends on prevention of major risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as tobacco smoking and high blood pressure and several cardiovascular risks. Prevention of premature mortality from suicide is also a major challenge for population health," the report states.