The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all sectors of society: the economic, political, and social sectors; however, one aspect that remains forgotten in obscurity is mental health. Weeks of social isolation, financial struggles, and an overall heightened sense of anxiety and pressure have contributed to higher levels of poor mental health among the general population. According to a study published by JAMA Network Open, “three times as many Americans met criteria for a depression diagnosis during the pandemic than before it” (Ducharme, 2020). Another research study about mental health surveyed about 1,500 Americans and revealed that signs of depression amongst adults rose to almost 28% from March to April of this year.
The statistics prove that individuals were more likely to suffer symptoms of depression if they experienced “COVID-19 stressors”, such as unemployment, financial stress, or the death of a loved one. In fact, it was reported that individuals with “less than $5,000 in savings were also about 50% more likely to suffer from depression than wealthier people” (Ducharme, 2020). But an interesting trend was that women were more likely to experience depression than men.
This is particularly seen in Japan.
Currently, there is an immense mental health crisis unfolding in Japan; suicide cases for women are at an all-time high since the pandemic surged. The government’s data reflects that “suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date,” in fact, “the monthly number of Japanese suicides rose to 2,153 in October, according to Japan’s National Police Agency”, compared to the 2,087 Covid-related deaths (Wang, 2020).
Japan was already battling one of the highest suicide rates worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Japan had a suicide mortality rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people in 2016, which is around three times higher than the annual global average of 10.6 per 100,000 people.
Before the pandemic, the number of suicide deaths had been consistently decreasing, with less than 20,000 in 2019. This was the lowest number of suicides since 1978 when Japan’s health authorities started recording the statistics. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed the situation, predominantly affecting women. Although men still suffer from higher numbers of suicides, women’s suicides have increased by 83% in 2020.
It is theorized that the primary reason is the result of horrible financial struggles. A large percentage of Japanese women are part-time workers in the retail, hotel, and food-service industries, which are the sectors that have been greatly affected. Therefore, many women were laid-off and remain unemployed, some with children and families to maintain.
Overall, the mental health crisis in Japan is a significant issue that still needs to be addressed. Compared to other countries, Japan’s lockdown requirements haven’t been as restrictive, yet it experienced a major increase in suicide cases. A professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, Michiko Ueda, expressed that this
can potentially suggest the worsening of mental health worldwide, this “suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future” (Wang, 2020).
Ducharme, J. (2020, September 4). Depression Has Skyrocketed During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Study Says. Time; Time. https://time.com/5886228/depression-covid-19-pandemic/#:~:text=Depression%20Has%20Skyrocketed%20During%20the%20COVID%2D19%20Pandemic%2C%20Study%20Says,-By%20Jamie%20Ducharme&text=Almost%20as%20soon%20as,in%20population%2Dwide%20psychological%20distress
Wang, S. (2020, November 29). The Covid-19 pandemic is driving a spike in suicides in Japan. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/28/asia/japan-suicide-women-covid-dst-intl-hnk/index.html