Karoshi 過労死: The 745,000 deaths from overworking

What is Karoshi?

Karoshi basically means a burnout, an excessive working habit which is sometimes stylized in the modern world. This word has its etymology from Japan and is indeed a Japanese word. The word obviously comes from a country known for having excessive working way of life, which has become a reason for the high record suicides in Japan. Reason behind this order of Japan includes multiple factors but that isn’t the point of this article.

The catch is that the word along with the essence it contains has spread like an epidemic across the world. Burnouts have become a reason for concern as it greatly decreases productivity in an organization which is obviously not favored.

745,000 deaths

In a recent journal published by the WHO available on ScienceDirect, a study related to various heart diseases and strokes were tested in nearly 194 countries. During the years 2000-2016 the organization found using systematic analysis that the reason for an increase in certain types of deaths can be attributed to the exorbitant working conditions. The study argues that nearly 745,194 deaths occurred which were due to heart diseases and stroke, and the reason behind these maladies was ‘Karoshi’ or burnouts. Working over 55 hours a week puts one in a position of this indirect risk.

This issue has become world-wide and is something which needs to actively be dealt with. The excessive deaths due to indirect reasons must not be taken for granted. Take for example the fact that in the month of October in 2020, more Japanese people died from suicide than from Covid 19. A map published by WHO to show which places in the world are more prone to burnouts is given here. The places with higher numbers (or darker shade of blue) have more susceptive to overwork exhaustion and related issues.

burnout map
From WHO report

Feeling blues

The reason behind your country being more or less blue, meaning that more or less prone to burnout depends on many factors. First one can notice that countries which are developing or underdeveloped have higher problems. This is because countries like India and in Africa have higher population. Leading to higher competition and poor living standards which all contribute to burnouts. The 6-day workweek also adds to the trouble. Countries especially in Europe have great flexibility and good living standards (like free healthcare) which make life more sustainable.

“We dehumanized workplace a long time ago”

Anat Lechner

Chuck out of that cult

An aura of prizing excessive working exists in much of today’s life. This exists primarily due to the increased competitiveness in the labor market and the stagnant wages over the last few decades. Corporations are exploiting this because they want their employees to pride themselves in overworking. People look onto idols like Elon Musk and wish to emulate them forgetting that these are means of making the employees work extra. Nowadays, slogans are being used to push the pushovers, like “grind harder” and “eat sleep grind repeat”. Disregarding that people are humans at the end of the day.

Ratan Tata image


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