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Death Rate Rises from Overwork, Unemployment Fears

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 4, 2009 in Business
While folks around the world claim they work too hard, Japan holds the record for it.
This is the place where people are literally dying from overwork. Some Americans have similar problems.
The American man, as dramatically shown in “Death of A Salesman” looked successful, happy, with a great family and everything anyone could buy. But then he took a gun and shot himself. This happens with the Japanese regularly enough for the problem to have become something of a crisis in the country. People in the United States are worried about many of the same problems.
The buzz word in Japan isn’t sex or booze but stress. 98.5 per cent of Japanese report commonly using the word. The word they commonly use, however, is “sutoresu” for stress. It is also known for the another commonly-used word “karoshi” which means death from overwork. In fact that has become literally true with Japan statistics showing 30,000 suicides per year tied to recession concerns.
Death from overwork isn’t central to Japan, but the country is now known for having a high incidence of dying from working too much. Lawyers estimate 10,000 work-related deaths annually. Folks worry that the crisis will be worse as the recession deepens.
In Tokyo tourists now see homeless people living in tents in parks near the University district, something unheard of in times past when family and filial responsibility were considered the hallmarks of Japanese culture. But the economic recession has driven people to desperate ends, in some cases. To avoid being a visibly poor individual and the shame of it, some simply kill themselves.
Japan developed a “karoshi” hotline that is designed to help employees who are overworked and overstressed. This gives companies a place where they can refer workers who need help.
Some Shanghai firms give their folks pillows to work out stress. People throw pillow punches with real pillows to work out frustrations. That’s because it has been reported that 26 million Chinese are depressed, 2 million attempt suicide, and 280,00 actually succeed at killing themselves.
A study done in 2000 found a high rate of stress related to work among American adults. The following are the findings:
• 65 percent of workers said that stress at work has caused them difficulties;
• 10 percent say they work in an atmosphere where physical violence has occurred due to job stress;
• 42 percent report that verbal abuse and yelling is common;
• More than 50 percent say they spend 12-hour days on work-related duties and skip lunch due to job demands;
• 34 percent are so stressed they have difficulty sleeping;
• 19 percent have quit a previous position due to job stress;
Given the increase of stress related to the recession, it is likely these numbers will increase according to experts. The impact of economic downturns and job loss is concerning mental health professionals in many places around the world.
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