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Karoshi, when the work kill you


The Japanese are known for their great dedication to work, sometimes excessive. In fact, in Japan they have a word to define death from overwork: karoshi.

The word karoshi is used to describe the sociolaboral phenomenon that has existed for decades in Japan, due to the increase in deaths due to overtime, most of them strokes, heart attacks and also suicides. In 1987 it was a reality recognized by the Ministry of Health of Japan, reaching in the year 2015 the figure of 2,310 victims, according to official figures of the Japanese Ministry of Labor. Such is the problem, that there is a national body to try to stop this labor epidemic, the National Council in Defense of Victims of karoshi, which estimated at 10,000 real annual affected. The term karoshi is not only used for mortal victims but for those who survive complications from work.

>> Related article: Japan and psychology

After World War II, the Japanese saw in the work a personal motivation besides the own economic compensation. Work became the center of Japanese lives boosted further by the economic bubble of the 1980s and 1990s. A high percentage of Japanese workers worked 60 hours a week, and did not seem to care. It was not uncommon for managers to think they would die working. Currently, the country with the longest working days is Mexico. Japan is even below the United States in weekly hours of work.

One of the most famous cases was the death of a Toyota engineer who died after performing more than 80 extra hours a month, between nights and weekends and was found by his dead daughter before a business trip to the United States.

Deaths referred to as karoshi are those caused by causes derived from overwork for more than 100 extra hours during the month prior to death or 80 extra hours in two or more months during the last six months before death.

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Causes of karoshi

Victims of karoshi are usually workaholics in which stress and lack of sleep converge as triggers, in addition to latent diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). They are factors that will not affect in the short term but can do so in the long term, that is, do not be alarmed if you have a busy season of work, with high stress. There is no scientific evidence of the immediate relationship of stress with the risk of dying. One of the greatest probabilities of karoshi shuffling studies, is the very fact of staying in the office sitting for long periods. So, if you are one of those who stays a little more at work waiting for the boss to go, better get up now.


It is a good thing that the Japanese practice the inemuri. The Japanese fall asleep everywhere, in the subway, work meetings, classes, etc. Without being frowned upon by others. Take advantage of any time to rest a little and keep working. If you sleep it is because you have been working hard and it is socially well regarded.


>> Relationated: ‘Suicide’

Iván Pico

Director y creador de Psicólogo Colegiado G-5480 entre otras cosas. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales y Máster en Orientación Profesional. Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y Organizaciones. Posgrado en Psicología del Deporte entre otras cosas. Visita la sección "Sobre mí" para saber más. ¿Quieres una consulta personalizada? ¡Escríbeme!

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