Japan, with about 127 million people, has one of the world's highest suicide rates [GALLO/GETTY]

An increase in cases of suicides and depression cost the Japanese economy almost $32bn last year, acccording to a government study.

The study shows unemployment benefits, medical bills of the depressed and the lost incomes of those who killed themselves have all contributed to this figure.

An official at Japan's health, labour and welfare ministry said: "Given that the number of suicides in Japan has been over 30,000 for 12 straight years, this is a problem that needs to be addressed by the entire nation."

Recent suicide cases have been linked to debt, family problems, depression and other health issues.

Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister, said: "There are many causes of suicides. Decreasing them would be one way to build a society with a minimum level of unhappiness."

Japan has the seventh highest suicide rate in the developed world, with 35.8 men per 100, 000 killing themselves.

There have been ongoing efforts by the government to tackle a rise in suicide cases since the economic crisis of the 1980s which left many out of work and in debt.

Source: Agencies