In this paper, we elucidate how suicide related to life insurance has played a crucial role in the social life of Japan since World War II. In particular, since Japan’s period of high economic growth, it has been observed that suicides by middle-aged men, who tend to have higher life insurance subscription rates than other people, have drastically increased and that economic problems have occupied a more important role as the cause of such suicides. This transformation has a significant connection with the rapid spread of life insurance, which has been caused by the growth of the finance systems of small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the development of the nuclear family during the postwar period. Life insurance has supplied a large amount of capital for these enterprises and has enabled families to survive after a loved one’s death. As a result, suicide in connection with life insurance has been deeply imbedded in contemporary Japanese life. This reason for suicide has been utilized as a major means of donation to others and a symbolic challenge to the wealthy. Although it is estimated that suicide in connection with life insurance is now decreasing due to the transformation of economic conditions since 2000 and the changes in life insurance agreements, this sociological significance of suicide has not been lost.
山形大学紀要. 社会科学 = Bulletin of Yamagata University. Social Science
93 - 110
Suicide as a gift : The historical sociology of suicide after high growth in Japan