Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Death by Overtime

We Americans like to talk about people who work themselves to death, but it's the Japanese who have created a classification, albeit a non-clinical one, for death by overwork. In fact, in December a Japanese court ordered Toyota to pay the widow of a 30 year-old deceased worker who had allegedly died of overwork. He logged 114 hours overtime the month he died.

From Karōshi-Death from overwork: "Occupational health consequences of the Japanese production management"

"The first case of karōshi was reported in 1969 with the death from a stroke of a 29- year old, married male worker in the shipping department of Japan's largest newspaper company [1]. Karōshi can be translated quite literally as "death from overwork." The major medical causes of karōshi-deaths are heart attack and stroke, including subarachnoidal hemorrhage (18.4%), cerebral hemorrhage (17.2%), cerebral thrombosis or infarction (6.8%), myocardial infarction (9.8%), heart failure (18.7%), and other causes (29.1%) [2]. The Ministry of Labor began to publish the statistics on karōshi in 1987, as public concern increased:

"There are no epidemiologically sound estimates of the prevalence and incidence of karōshi. Until recently, there were 20 to 60 deaths each year from overwork for which the Ministry of Labor awarded compensation. However, critics state that the number of people the Ministry compensates for such deaths is much less than their actual occurrence. The overall number of deaths related to cerebrovascular or cardiovascular disease in the 20 to 59 age group is around 35,000 per year according to vital statistics data. Kawato estimates that one-third of these are work-related, or more than 10,000 each year. In 1994, the Japanese government's Economic Planning Agency in the Institute of Economics estimated the number of Karōshi deaths at around 1,000 or 5 percent of all deaths from cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease in the 25 to 59 age group."

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