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Young workers in Japan - candidates for clinical depression

26 Comments

Depression. Of course, Japan has its problems, but why should so relatively prosperous, developed and democratic a society be so prone to a malady whose name means misery?

How prone is it? There are various indicators. One is official. Health ministry statistics record roughly 440,000 cases of clinical depression nationwide in 1999 – and 950,000 in 2011. It’s a shocking increase which may, all the same, fail to reflect the full scope of the crisis. Spa! (May 21) makes a bolder claim. Quoting an unnamed occupational psychologist, it says fully 80% of Japanese company employees are, if not full-fledged depressives, “candidates for depression” – on the brink of it.

Is corporate workaday life really so intolerable? It may not be as bad as it seems. Seeing a psychiatrist no longer carries the stigma it once did. More people are doing it. To what degree the rising stats reflect more diagnoses rather than more cases is not known.

Official figures aside, the anecdotal evidence that our lives are driving us around the bend is hard to dismiss. Most vulnerable of all, Spa! hears from Boei Medical University depression specialist Soichiro Nomura, are men in their 40s.

Why should that be?

A number of factors converge at that stage in life, Nomura explains. Career, family and financial responsibilities peak just when physical stamina starts to run down. Increasingly, there are aged parents to care for. The kids’ university years loom, and with them added expenses. A generation ago there was a reasonable measure of job security. Not now. Salaries no longer rise predictably even if you do keep your job – which is not assured. Nor, for that matter, is family stability. Fixed gender roles no longer free the husband from domestic cares, or prevent the wife from venting dissatisfactions she would once have swallowed. (Women too, of course, are vulnerable to mid-life and mid-career depression, but Spa!’s readership being largely male, male issues are its focus.)

Depression, like society itself, is evolving, and new types emerging. One is actually called “new-style depression,” and debate proceeds over whether or not it qualifies as a genuine illness. It generally afflicts younger workers, those in their 20s and 30s. Its defining characteristic is a tendency to manifest itself only during working hours. The working day over, the victim suddenly feels fine – until next morning. That suggests malingering to some, but others insist it is real enough, and a measurable damper on productivity. Another feature: whereas sufferers of classical depression typically blame themselves, the new-style depressive blames others – his boss more often than not.

Another evolutionary offshoot is what Spa! calls “strategic depression.” A ruder term, favored by some, is “convenient depression.” Convenient it may be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean fake. The constant fear of being laid off is depressing, and produces the usual symptoms – self-doubt, lack of energy and motivation, and so on. So you visit a psychiatrist, and obtain a certificate affirming you are depressed – armed with which you negotiate a leave of absence from work. If lay-offs at your company are really in the offing, this is protection. It is not strictly illegal to lay off someone on medical leave, but it is problematic. So your colleagues will bear the brunt of the restructuring while you slowly recover. Hopefully by the time you get back the worst will be over.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

26 Comments
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working in a japanese company would make anyone prone to depression. Long hours, very little in the way of holidays and with 40% of workers on rubbish temporary contracts, the constant fear of non renewal. Was life meant to be like this??

10 ( +13 / -3 )

but why should so relatively prosperous, developed and democratic a society be so prone to a malady whose name means misery?

Because depression is exactly a mental disorder caused by this kind of stressful society.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

How prone is it? There are various indicators. One is official. Health ministry statistics record roughly 440,000 cases of clinical depression nationwide in 1999 – and 950,000 in 2011. It’s a shocking increase which may, all the same, fail to reflect the full scope of the crisis. Spa! (May 21) makes a bolder claim. Quoting an unnamed occupational psychologist, it says fully 80% of Japanese company employees are, if not full-fledged depressives, “candidates for depression” – on the brink of it.

It's only "shocking" because someone is actually taking the time to find out the numbers and publishing them. This country is still way far behind in accepting and dealing with mental health issues.

I'll bet the numbers were even higher back after the "bubble" popped and the the folks that got chopped from their jobs would have made this number seem low.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

To a greater or lesser degree the people seem emotionally abused and the "culture" seems to hold the borderline emotionally-abused up as role models. Add to that the lack of natural intimacy - even communication - and the way it is also accepted as normal and you have a recipe for depression. It starts in families and is intensified by schools. But there is no awareness of the dysfunction and no awareness that therapy of various kinds are available that start with an assumption that dysfunction begins in families. As it says in the article, psychiatrists may be turned to but they medicalise psychological damage, because they are doctors and not psychologists, and patients end up with a bag full of pills.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The disappearance of the old-fashioned community, a supportive family-life, real physical friends, and the demands of the work place have all contributed to this. Constant media advertising to spend for the perfect life-style, pressure to emulate 'role-models', the modern 24/7 digital life-style, and the rise in short-term temporary worker contracts all serve to mentally traumatise people. All products of the modern lifestyle, and conspicuously absent in developing and underdeveloped countries.

The drug industry must be rubbing it's hands in glee at such a report, as they constantly seek opportunities to peddle chemical solutions to mental problems...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

they have to start smiling, laughing and get some seratonin going that will help a bit.!! at work they need to be treated as humans not as robots!! every zoo animal has more rights than any salery man in japan.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I work at a JP company and feel clinically depressed with worse symptoms on Monday, then slightly less symptoms the rest of the week until I am miraculously cured at 6pm on Friday. And if I get depressed working here and can exit back to the motherland of maple syrup and luscious milk, then it must be worse for the locals who are absolutely stuck here.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I do agree with lots of this article, but this comment..

Fixed gender roles no longer free the husband from domestic cares, or prevent the wife from venting dissatisfactions she would once have swallowed.

... made me laugh out loud.

So because the wife is making Taro Sr. do the washing up once in a while (while she probably has at least a part time job of her own to hold down on top of raising the kids, due to the crappy economy) its contributing to depression? And I KNOW Spa is a male orientated magazine, but at the same time it seems contradictory to say "we should let workers stop working so much overtime so they can have a family life outside word" and then in the same breath blame their families for making them depressed.

What kind of life-work balance exactly do they want, I wonder?

Depression is a serious disease, and I don't doubt for one second that companies and their ridiculous overtime are very responsible in how bad its gotten. But blaming it on the wife?! I don't think so...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Maybe if Japan had decent doctors, they would at least be able to offer some medical help.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Fortunately, I work at a company which has seen a drastic reduction in overtime as well as a culture which doesn't force people to spend their precious free time drinking with people you've just spent the entire day with. Getting home at a reasonable hour, switching off from work and coworkers and having the time and energy to spend as you please is vital. Everyone should have interests and hobbies which they can pursue on weekdays, and an identity outside of their jobs.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It is a mix of overtime and the decreasing willingness of people to tolerate it as a positive.

To an extent, this stuff is mental. You think overtime is your duty, almost even a pleasure, and it is less traumatic already.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Kazuaki I can buy into Japanese Pollyanna thinking up to a point. Complaining about small apartments? They are easier to clean. Complaining about crowded trains? You can burn up calories while standing. Complaining about cold, dark winter mornings? You can look forward to a steaming hot nabe for dinner. Complaining that work and overtime are making your life a misery, leaving you tired and depressed with a stagnating salary? Erm.....Gaman suru?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Clinical Depression is one of those things that many mistakenly think they understand. Almost everyone has experienced some of the elements, but for some it becomes a full scale disorder. Clinical Depression may be cause by chemical imbalance, physical difficulties, emotional problems, stress, unrecognized sources, or a combination of these things. Certain people may have a genetic disposition for depression, triggered by stress, others may have a world view that interprets events in a negative way. The normal sad type of depression however is quite different than the deep all-encompassing, long lasting pain of clinical depression. Therefore clinical depression is a complex illness that is often impossible to snap out of. The sad part is that many suffers never avail themselves of any effective treatment since depression has a stigma attached to. As a result many suffer silently for fear of embarrassment. I know what it's like personally. Just go get help because it can't hurt.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When life consists of being an undervalued cog in a chain then I'd be pretty depressed too...,,

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

In Japan, most people work long hours daily, and they rarely get time off work. In Japanese cultures, many people suffering from mental illnesses are ignored, stigmatized, are made to feel ashamed, lack treatment options and blamed for the way they are. This causes an affected person to withdrawn, self-medicate and worsen. Only then do the families wake up. And by that time, the person is already very ill or has other problems associated it. Depression including mental illnesses are under-reported.

In the Western countries, more cases of depressions are reported because of the level of support, researches, education and treatment options available. This makes it more comfortable for people talk about it. In Japan, culture and media contributes greatly to depression and anxiety. Japanese are constantly being told how horrible the next catastrophe, be it financial or environmental or political, is going to be.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Depression is a disease of the mind. It has to be diagnosed and treated. The environment doesn't have anything to do with it. You may have all the comfort and richness of the world, but with issues like this you will still end up in the mental hospital. There is a thin line between depression and sadness. I think sadness triggers most of not having any initiative to live life the fullest. Another is laziness. No motivation on the part too. No goals, dreams and above all faith.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can't believe I read that. Technically I have had these disorders my whole life.

Gotta love japan! Where I am from, another man would come and replace your lazy, rifle-headed, hypochondriac ass... Lol

Depression, like society itself, is evolving, and new types emerging. One is actually called “new-style depression,” and debate proceeds over whether or not it qualifies as a genuine illness. It generally afflicts younger workers, those in their 20s and 30s. Its defining characteristic is a tendency to manifest itself only during working hours. The working day over, the victim suddenly feels fine – until next morning.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is there any wonder why so many people are depressed? Have you been on a morning train into the city? That alone would be enough to make me hate my lot in life...but then you get to the offices, where junior workers are usually treated like crap by somebody at the workplace, and wages are barely enough to get by on, especially for women employees. Then you have the constant meetings and the group-focus that leaves almost no chance for young individuals with ideas to shine or pursue their own agenda to further themselves while furthering their company. Depressing, indeed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

this is not something which is unique to Japan. depression is now prevalent all over the world.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

White_Shinobi...What is "rifle-headed"?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As stressful as work may be, many cases of depression are likely due to low vitamin D levels. Most salarymen don't get any sun exposure at all. Almost everyone I know has chronically low vitamin D levels. I would wager you could prevent 80% of these cases of depression through proper sun exposure or vitamin D supplementation.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

2 broad reasons that have lead to this:

1) Irresponsible doctors whose primarily focus is $$ and therefore intentionally mis-diagnose the symptoms as "depression" as then they can prescribe medications for a prolonged period of time and get paid well.

2) Irresponsible patients who wishes to put the blame for their lack of XXX to some illness and therefore have their actions justified.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

a month ago I heard people asking for depression, they were riding a car or vehicle. Virtual reality?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

people who go to pachinco must suffer from it.. would people like a simple cure for clinical depression? Simple, do something fun, change the routine, eat healthy, a healthy body equals a healthy mind.. and make sure to laugh at least once a day.. laughing helps to alleviate stress..

of course you can just go to the doctors and get pills, believing that they will work, yet the doctors know it wont (it even says on the package that the drugs may not work).

clinical depression is bad for you, but not to the company or the drug makers.. for company, it makes certain that you become a sheep.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The anxiety of living cost is increasing constantly in this country. The concern of your company is getting bigger and bigger and your family members would say, " Why your salary is so little? " These misery factors would crush your mental. Depression is one of the social phenominon, I think so.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

And if I get depressed working here and can exit back to the motherland of maple syrup and luscious milk, then it must be worse for the locals who are absolutely stuck here.

I feel the same way. If I didn't know I could ball out of Japan at any time and go back "home," I would probably have to try and join a ninja dojo or something.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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