Comment on Japanese KAROSHI from USA


<The First Mail from SARA N. HINES>

Date: Mon, 08 Dec 1997 23:47:20 -0800

From: "SARA N. HINES" <>


MIME-Version: 1.0


Subject: Karoshi

Status: RO


Very much appreciated your article on Karoshi. Many Americans work

these sorts of hours but a clear pattern of death from overwork isn't

here. I was interested in what mental patterns people experienced when

they were intensely overworked.


I have unwittingly found myself working 7 days a week for a number of

months recently and found that mentally almost any other input from the

outside was shut out. Finally, the projects were finished and

everything seemed quite empty and meaningless--all life meaning had

become tied up in work. I felt somewhat depressed and noted a lack of

interest in living.

After some days, my mental horizons again have widened and my enjoyment

of life has begun to return. I am self-employed and it was my choice to

take on the work challenge that involved so many long days some 16 hours

or more.


I wondered if there are some generally recognizable mental symptoms of

karoshi that people could monitor. I observed that the experience of

mental and physical exhaustion was similar to what sleep deprived people

experience. In fact, as became more and more exhausted, I was unable to

sleep more than 4 hours a night and that in naps. I found that I could

concentrate very well on exactly what my work was, but that other areas

of my life I could barely make sense of. It came as a relief when I had

to go back to the project I was working on. As, in that pattern, I

could function well.


I thought it was interesting that the actual physical death in karoshi

was caused primarily by cerebal hemorrhage (or stroke) or secondarily

heart. It was as if the brain itself was damaged by the overwork. It

may be that the electric behavior in the brain needs variety in the same

way that the brain requires REM or dream sleep to function normally.


Does the actual monomaniacal concentration on only one routine damage

the brain? Of course the causes of death were essentially circulatory,

but what function does the brain play in regulating these functions by

either endocrine secretions or endorphin production.


Though you related your paper to sociological factors in Japanese

society, I think that there may be global information here. There is

always a need for balance in life.


Please feel no obligation to respond. I very much appreciated your

paper and will check again to see more of your work.


Thank you,


Sara Hines

Massachusetts, USADate: Tue, 09 Dec 1997 18:37:07 -0800

From: "SARA N. HINES" <>


MIME-Version: 1.0

To: Tetsuro Kato <>

Subject: Re: Karoshi

<My First Reply>

Tetsuro Kato wrote:


> At 11:47 PM -0800 1997.12.08, SARA N. HINES wrote:

> >Very much appreciated your article on Karoshi. Many Americans work

> >these sorts of hours but a clear pattern of death from overwork isn't

> >here. I was interested in what mental patterns people experienced when

> >they were intensely overworked.


> Thank you for your long mail-comment on my KAROSHI paper from USA.


> About KAROSHI, you can read some of my other English papers and also

> directly ask to the Japanese KAROSHI Hotline's English Page made by lawyers

> below.



> And one interesting case study of mental stress in Japanese company

> (Hitachi) is in:



> As your comment is very interesting, I would like to publish it on my

> Homepage for Japanese readers. Can you allow me to publish your private mail

> on my Homepage?


> Yours, Tetsuro KATO


> [Please see my Homepage below!]


> Dr.Tetsuro Kato

> Professor of Political Science

> Faculty of Social Sciences

> Hitotsubashi University

> Kunitachi, Tokyo 186, Japan

> Office Phone: +81-425-80-8276

> (Home) 2-16-41, Tokura, Kokubunji, Tokyo 185,JAPAN

> Home Phone: +81-423-27-9261

> Home Fax: +81-423-27-9262

> E-mail:

> Internet Homepage:

<SARA's Second Mail>

Thanks for your reply. I will give you permission to print the letter.

I might add that I am an architect, working out of my home, so that I

frequently work all day and then resume after dinner and work till

late-sometimes after midnight, though I hope I can stop that intensity

of work now. It may be, as I suggested the karoshi affect is there no

matter what the socio/economic pressures are--it only takes chronic

overwork to produce it.


It also occurred to me that one of the psychological experiences of

people who are suicidal is that the individual experiences a narrowing

of options in life, a feeling that is no way out of a situation other

than death. This seems to be a parallel mind state to karoshi.


Do you have suicide hotlines in Japan as we do here? Volunteers will

answer the phone 24 hours a day to speak with people who are suicidal or

generally desperate. They are counseled how to do this.


I will read the papers you recommended. I hope what I sent you was not

too long.

Thank you,

Sara Hines

<My 2nd Reply>

Thank you for your permission to use your mail on my Homepage.

Actually speaking, Japanese Karoshi in the 1990s after the collapse of bubble economy is called "Mental KAROSHI" or "KAROSHI-Suicide," because the physical working hours were a little bid reduced, but the Karoshi phenomenon continued still now especially by mental stress.

Of course there is "KAROSHI-Suicide-hotline" by lawyers as well as "Life-hotline (Suiside Hotline)" by medical counselors and volunteers ,especially for young generations (sometimes elementary school girls!).

But the difficult thing is how to prove it a KAROSHI in law in the court. Many karoshi victims experienced both physical and mental stresses and their direct reasons of death were, medically speaking, heart failure, celebral hemorrhage, subarachnoidal hemorrhage etc.

Thus, to understand Karoshi means to find Japanese society differently.

Yours, Tetsuro KATO