An office in China. (Photo/Xinhua)
Nearly 600,000 people die from "work exhaustion" in China each year, according to a report in the China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League.
The term is translated from the Japanese term "karoshi," which means occupational sudden death. The major medical causes for such deaths are heart attacks and strokes due to stress. A survey conducted by the party-run tabloid Global Times found that two out of three of the people it polled said they are in poor health. The 1,000 interviewees, aged 20-60, were selected from seven major cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi'an, Changsha and Shenyang. Most of them are white-collar workers.
The people surveyed said they feel tired under pressure, but feel anxious when there is no pressure at all. Most agreed that it costs US$1,430 a month to live in a first-tier city such as Beijing or Shanghai and around US$795 to get by in second-tier cities like Dalian and Chengdu.
Hu Yinglian, an instructor from the Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing, said the government should establish a healthier social security system to remove anxiety among the public.
In the 1980s and '90s, Japanese victims of karoshi succumbed mostly due to the country's rapid economic development. Now China has overtaken Japan with an estimated 600,000 work-related deaths a year. Symptoms contributing to occupational sudden death include insomnia, anorexia and abdominal pains, although no one in the survey considered these conditions serious enough to seek medical treatment.
Hong Ding, director of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital Diabetes Center, said that the only way for people in the workforce to prevent occupational sudden death is to live a healthier and well-regulated life.