This Article explores the complex relation between consumer insolvency law and suicide in Japan, where bankruptcies and suicides have increased dramatically in recent years. The statistical and interview evidence, some of which relates to the creation of a relatively efficient and socially acceptable insolvency mechanism in 2001, suggests that law is at least indirectly relevant to decisions to take one’s own life. Law can bring about debt control and stigma mitigation, each of which can lead to lower levels of stress and depression, each of which can lead to lower suicide rates. Still, responses to the law, even in relatively homogeneous Japan, are varied and ambiguous, and seldom if ever is insolvency law the sole cause of suicide. The causal mechanism behind the law’s apparent force appears to be a complex calculus of economic and social factors.


Law and Economics

Date of this Version

December 2003