In its Golden Week double issue, Shukan Shincho (May 3-10) runs a collection of articles under the headline "Lifestyles that will lead to collapsing from illness," covering nine separate themes. They include how an overly spartan diet can lead to stroke and heart disease; how such strenuous activities as mountain climbing and running in marathons can be fatal for middle-aged people; the potential dangers of organically grown foods; how over-ingestion of liquids is bad for the body; the physical perils of late-night desk work; and the relationship between stroke and periodontal disease.
One of the items ties in with another topic that has recently become a point of controversy in Japan: that of "kodoku-shi," or dying alone. This, Shukan Shincho suggests, is the downside to the happy-go-lucky lifestyle of middle-aged male divorcees who live by themselves.
Two years ago, the Tokyo Medical Examiner's office issued a report that gave statistics on solitary deaths in the 23 central wards of Tokyo. The first aspect of the data that strikes readers is how rapidly their numbers have increased. In 2006, the total number of all solitary deaths in Tokyo was 3,395 -- up threefold over 1987. The latter figure comes to nearly 10 per day. The 2,362 males was more than twice the number of females.
The second shocking statistic was the ages of the subjects. Taking the data for 2005, males ages 40 through 49 exceeded 100; the peak number of male deaths was 404, occurring between the ages 60 to 64.
"Even as part of our regular medical duties, we see a lot of solitary deaths," says Yoshimasa Kanawaku, an ad-hoc medical examiner who worked on the report. "The results this time, which showed that men past age 50 were susceptible to solitary deaths, were expected.
"This does not disregard that the older a person becomes the more likely he is to die, but that the high occurrence of solitary deaths by middle aged males is something that cannot be ignored," Kanawaku adds.
What factors are behind this phenomenon?
"More men who belong to the age of those who reached the compulsory retirement age are dying alone," states Akikazu Takata, professor emeritus at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine. "When such men leave their company organizations while in middle age, unlike females, they often lose their friendships and horizontal relationships. Living alone in apartments in the capital apart from family members or relatives, and not even forming relationships with their neighbors, I suppose alienation is common."
A telling statistic from the report is the number of days that transpire between the estimated time of death and discovery of the body. As opposed to an average of 6.5 days for females, the figure for males, 12 days, is roughly double.
Professor Takata also points out another distinctive finding from the Tokyo report.
"In the case solitary deaths in Tokyo, the biggest problem was that the victims were not seeing a regular doctor. In regional parts of the country, even though people may have to travel for a long distance to visit a general hospital, attending physicians will respond to a telephone call and call on a person's home. But in Tokyo when a person feels slightly indisposed he has no one to talk to, and most people are hesitant to dial 119 for an ambulance.
"So people put off seeking treatment, not realizing their condition may be serious, and in many cases death results."
The factor in many solitary deaths is illness, particularly cardiac problems, and alcohol is viewed as a main contributing factor.
"Men who habitually dine in restaurants or who eat box lunches from convenience stores don't get a proper diet, and are susceptible to high blood pressure and diabetes. This diet also raises the risk of heart attacks," says Takata.
So gentlemen if you want to live long, the magazine advises, get busy re-establishing your marital relationship.© Japan Today