Japan's Mental Illness Workers Comp Claims Spike

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of people who claimed workers' compensation for mental illnesses they suffered because of overwork or other work-related situations surged by 209, or 22 percent, from a year earlier to a record 1,136 in fiscal 2009, a survey by the labor ministry showed Monday.

The number of people whose claims were approved totaled 234, the third highest on record but down 35 from the previous year. Among these people, 63 committed suicide and their relatives applied for compensation.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare attributed the increase in claims for workers' compensation to a rise in the number of mental disease sufferers and revisions made the previous year to the standards for certifying mental illness due to work-related factors.

The ministry has been working to oblige employers to add mental illness to their health checks on employees as part of the state's efforts to prevent suicide.

As for reasons behind the mental disorders, 55 of the 234 whose claims were approved cited significant changes in their work responsibilities, 37 mentioned tragic experiences such as accidents and disasters, and 25 blamed longer working hours.

Meanwhile, the number of people who claimed workers' compensation for diseases of the brain and heart fell 122 to 767, with 293 winning approval for compensation, down 84. Of the 293, 106 died of their illness, down 52.

By type of business, 84 of these 293 were car drivers, the largest figure, followed by 33 sales clerks and 25 office clerks.

Of the 293, 119 worked overtime for an average of 80-100 hours a month, while 143 did over 100 hours of extra work.

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