KAROSHI CULTURE: A WARNING TO WORKAHOLICS


Like a lot of people, I didn't do so well by my body for a long time, even though I tried--and even though I'd been a leader in helping older adults with their health and wellness for more than 30 years. I was focused on working hard–caught up in the ‘hustle culture’ that paves the way towards supposed success–but unfortunately the old adage, ‘hard work never killed anyone’, is certainly incorrect.


Of course, many people seem to be doing great: they're at the peak of their careers, have rewarding relationships, and may be seeing their children coming into successful adulthood. Be that as it may, peak potential is rarely showing up in how they care for themselves and how they feel. A famous quote by the Dalai Lama says it best. When asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said,


“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”


The Japanese concept of karoshi (過労死) comes to mind when I think of what can happen when you aren't in tune with your body's needs. Karoshi, a Japanese word that literally translates as "overwork death," is known as sudden occupational mortality. In South Korea, it's called gwarosa (과로사) and in China, guolaosi (過勞死/过劳死). The term is said to have originated in 1982 when three Japanese doctors (Tajiri Seiichiro, Hosokawa, and Uehata) published a book entitled Karoshi that noted many victims of overwork and included research into their deaths, bringing the issue into the public view. The victims were young men who were otherwise healthy, but had worked more than 60 hours a week on average and had died on the job from heart attacks and strokes. There are also extensive reports by WHO/ILO from 2016 that found as many as 745,194 deaths worldwide were attributable to long working hours.


Even with strategies to create a happier and healthier working environment, the dangers of not maintaining a work/life balance are ever-present. Overworking is no laughing matter and can be detrimental to your health, even fatal.


I think that we can all take a note from the Dalai Lama and remember that hard work deserves to be met with time for rest and restoration to keep us happy, healthy, and motivated! Live in the present, take that vacation–whether it’s a stay-cation or traveling to far-off lands–and give yourself the experiences that will allow you to look back years from now and say: I lived to the fullest and will not leave this world having sacrificed my health and time to nothing but work.


Until next time,

~Dwayne



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