Volume 47 (2005) Issue 2 Pages 157-164
With the rapidly increasing number of work-related suicides in Japan (Karojisatsu, in Japanese), both applications for worker's compensation insurance and civil suits are proliferating. The phenomenon of work-related suicide is examined along with the process and related factors. With informed consent from bereaved families, two certified psychiatrists independently reviewed and summarized 22 insurance and legal reports filed by psychiatrists on employee suicides that were related to heavy workloads. A clinical epidemiologist participated in discussions with psychiatrists to reach a consensus concerning the cause of the suicides. Only one case involved a female. Seventeen had experienced personnel changes, such as a promotion or transfer. Low social support was recognized in 18, high psychological demand in 18, low decision latitude in 17, and long working hours in 19 cases (more than 11 hours per day for 3 months or more, and without a day off in 9). The subjects had depressive episodes by the ICD-10 criteria and showed suicidal signs. Ten of them saw a general practitioner because of unspecified somatic complaints, but no effective measures were taken. None of them had a history of psychiatric consultation or had received mental health education dealing with job stress management. Although causality cannot be made from this case series report, we hypothesize that long working hours, heavy workloads, and low social support may cause depression, which can lead to suicide. Appropriate countermeasures are urgently needed and the present findings suggest some of them are possible.