Increasingly, healthy-looking salarymen drop dead from unexpected heart attacks or strokes. This is known as “karoshi”, and it’s generally attributed to the unrelenting stress of their jobs.
The first case of karoshi was reported in 1969, when a married 29-year-old man died of a stroke, while working as a shipping clerk for Japan’s biggest newspaper.
The phenomenon really found public attention in the boom years of the 1980’s, when, without warning, many top executives found themselves eating desk.
An insurance company’s survey of 500 office workers in Tokyo found that 46% of them were concerned about dying on the job.
Heart attacks and strokes are very common, and it’s difficult to determine the number of deaths actually caused by overwork. The Ministry of Labour compensates for 20 to 60 deaths each year, but critics suggest the real figure is nearer 10,000.