Mental Health in Japan: Intersecting Risks in the Workplace
Japanese culture tends to value group harmony and social conformity. The work culture in Japan reflects this belief system, evidenced by behaviors including working significant amounts of overtime, which is often unpaid, and taking minimal vacation. Japan also has a relatively recent history of economic instability, coupled with negative perceptions of being fired or unemployed, which creates heightened perceived pressures to fit in as an employee. These pressures, on top of tendencies to overwork, translate into an increased risk of stress and other mental health issues, which studies of prevalence have verified. Furthermore, structural and cultural stigma against mental illness and treatment in Japan acts as a barrier to addressing mental health risks among Japanese workers. In recent decades, the Japanese government has stepped up efforts to improve its mental health care system, resulting in some promising improvements, particularly pertaining to suicide prevention. However, initiatives to improve mental health at the workplace are new, underdeveloped, and currently lack scope and empirical-basis. For Japanese workers, work culture, financial insecurity, and stigma are three intersecting mental health risk factors that can be used as a framework for targeted improvements.
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