Jump to content
OneHallyu

Japan has appointed a "Minister of Loneliness"


Recommended Posts

Japan has appointed a "Minister of Loneliness"

The role aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation among Japan's residents as the country deals with rising suicide rates.

spacer.png

-Japan appointed a "Minister of Loneliness" this month to tackle the country's rising suicide rates. 

-During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with people more socially isolated than ever, Japan saw a rise in suicides for the first time in 11 years, particularly among women.

-In October, more people died from suicide than had died from COVID-19 in Japan in all of 2020 so far. There were 2,153 suicide deaths that month and 1,765 total virus deaths up to the end of October 2020, per the Japanese National Police Agency.

-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto, who is already a minister in charge of dealing with Japan's declining birthrate and promoting regional revitalization, to oversee government policies to deal with loneliness and isolation.

-Loneliness has long been an issue in Japan, often discussed alongside "hikikomori," or people who live in extreme social isolation.

-People have worked to create far-ranging solutions to this issue. Engineers in Japan previously designed a robot to hold someone's hand when they're lonely.

-The United Kingdom was the first country to appoint a loneliness minister in 2018, after a 2017 report found that more than nine million people in the UK said they often or always felt lonely. Australia has considered creating a similar position.

 

 

 

 

 

Articles - 

Japan has appointed a 'Minister of Loneliness' after seeing suicide rates in the country increase for the first time in 11 years

Spoiler

Japan has appointed a "Minister of Loneliness" to take try and reduce loneliness and social isolation among its residents as the country deals with rising suicide rates, Tomohiro Osaki reported for the Japan Times.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto, who is already a minister in charge of dealing with Japan's declining birthrate and promoting regional revitalization, to oversee government policies to deal with loneliness and isolation, earlier this month. Prime Minister Suga chose Sakamoto as his Minister for economic revitalization when he was elected in September 2020.

"Women are suffering from isolation more (than men are), and the number of suicides is on a rising trend," Suga told Sakamoto on a February 12 news conference announcing the new role, according to the Japan Times. "I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively."

Loneliness has long been an issue in Japan, often discussed alongside "hikikomori," or people who live in extreme social isolation. People have worked to create far-ranging solutions to this issue: Engineers in Japan previously designed a robot to hold someone's hand when they're lonely and one man charges people to "do nothing" except keep them company.

A rise in suicides during the pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with people more socially isolated than ever, Japan saw a rise in suicides for the first time in 11 years.

In October, more people died from suicide than had died from COVID-19 in Japan in all of 2020. There were 2,153 suicide deaths that month and 1,765 total virus deaths up to the end of October 2020, per the Japanese National Police Agency. (After a surge in new cases starting in December, Japan has now recorded 7,506 total coronavirus deaths as of February 22.) Studies show that loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of health issues like heart disease, dementia, and eating disorders.

Women in Japan, in particular, have contributed to the uptick in suicides. In October, 879 women died by suicide in Japan — a 70% increase compared to the same month in 2019. 

More and more single women live alone in Japan, but many of them don't have stable employment, Michiko Ueda, a Japanese professor who studies suicide in Japan, told the BBC last week.

"A lot of women are not married anymore," Ueda said. "They have to support their own lives and they don't have permanent jobs. So, when something happens, of course, they are hit very, very hard."

Japan's new loneliness minister said that he plans to hold an emergency forum in late February to hear concerns from people dealing with loneliness and isolation.

"I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people," Sakamoto said at the February 12 news conference.

The United Kingdom was the first country to appoint a loneliness minister in 2018, after a 2017 report found that more than nine million people in the UK said they often or always felt lonely. But the role seems to not be a particularly desirable one, as the UK has gone through three loneliness ministers in three years. Australia has considered creating a similar position.

https://www.insider.com/japan-minister-of-loneliness-suicides-rise-pandemic-2021-2


Suicide among women surges as more people in Japan kill themselves in a single month than the total number lost to COVID-19 in 2020

Spoiler

More people died from suicide in Japan in October than the total number of COVID-19 deaths in 2020, figures released by the Japanese National Police Agency show.

The figure rose to 2,153 in October from 1,805 in September, while the number of COVID-19 deaths reached 1,765 by the end of the month, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

There was also an increase in the number of suicides recorded over the past four months compared to 2019, the Ministry figures show.

In March, 21-year-old student Koki Ozora set up the Japanese online counseling site, Anata no Ibasho and told Insider: "Anata no Ibasho means 'A Place for You' so I wanted to tell people that even if you are lonely at school, work or home, there is a place for you with us."

He said that he grew up lonely and depressed, and a high school teacher was the first adult he could trust, adding: "Without him, I wouldn't even be around today. It was a miracle I came across him, so I want to offer that miracle to others."

There are now 700 volunteers involved, many of whom live abroad in different time zones and can provide counseling between 10pm and dawn, when the need for suicide prevention runs highest. 

The most common calls are from people with suicidal thoughts, while others report stress and anxiety, Ozora added.

Although Japan has declared a state of emergency, lockdown has never been imposed, but record COVID-19 deaths mean it might be.

Experts are concerned about how this could impact mental health, especially that of women who have been disproportionately affected this year, with an 83% rise in suicide cases to 851, compared to a 22% male increase to 1302.  

Ozora said: "There are several potential reasons for this. Women make up a larger percentage of part-time workers in the hotel, foodservice and retail industries - where layoffs have been deep.

"In addition, a succession of Japanese celebrities who had many female fans have taken their lives in recent months.

"While the Japanese media rarely details the specifics of such deaths - deliberately not dwelling on method or motive - the mere reporting on these cases often causes an increase in suicide in the general public."


Japan has the highest suicide rate in the G7 and subsequently reports its data every month compared to other countries, including the US, the latest national data collected in 2018.

However, suicides decreased and fell by 4% to 19,959 in 2019, the lowest amount since records began in 1978, CNN reported.

Following the financial crisis of the 90s, Japan's suicide rate hit a record high in 2003 when 34,427 people took their own lives.

In response, the Japanese government decided to introduce the Basic Act for Suicide Prevention in 2006, CNN added

Pandemic stress and the rise in suicidal urges is not only a problem in Japan. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 10 people had considered suicide in the past month, twice the rate from 2018.

The British Journal of Psychiatry also found that suicidal thoughts had increased during the first six weeks of lockdown in the UK.

https://www.insider.com/japan-more-suicide-deaths-in-october-than-from-covid-19-in-2020

This robot is designed to hold your hand when you're feeling lonely

Spoiler

At a time when many are isolated without a hand to hold, engineers in Japan have designed a device to let people experience an illusion of human contact.

This disembodied robot hand — called Osampo Kanojo, or "My Girlfriend in Walk" — is covered in a skin-like gel that radiates warmth. It can squeeze back on command, and in later prototypes, its designers are hoping to make it smell, sound, and sweat like a human partner.

The prototype presented at the International Virtual Reality Conference this year did not include the full range of functions the designers envisioned, so the invention is not yet complete. When it's ready, there's a large and growing market for such a product, experts said.

"We have this biological need to be with others," Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, told Insider. "And right now, particularly, we're at a loss for how to fulfill that need."

But the thing about hand-holding is that the person on the other end matters, Holt-Lunstad said. While the robot hand could mimic the warmth and pressure of a human hand, it lacks the emotional connection that usually underlies hand-holding.

Insider spoke with Holt-Lunstad and James Coan, an affective neuroscientist who specializes in hand-holding, about how this kind of contact affects the brain and how you can fight loneliness if you're stuck holding your own hand.

Hand-holding has a calming effect on the brain

The warmth and pressure of holding someone's hand is enough to tell the brain to relax a little bit, Coan told Insider. As the director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience laboratory, he has studied people as they held hands in high-stress situations, like sitting in an MRI machine expecting an electric shock.

Coan explained that the physical sensation of holding someone's hand — or, even better, getting a squeeze back — is unconditionally pleasurable for humans. Fundamentally, it tells the brain you're not alone.

"What that means to your brain is that you have extra resources," Coan said. "Imagine you're walking through the woods and there could be a potential predator around. It's way better to have four eyes than two."

It's not just about touch

But, much of the psychological benefits of hand-holding depend on the person to whom the hand belongs. In multiple neuroimaging studies, Coan found that holding the hand of a stranger is associated with a slightly toned-down threat response, but holding the hand of a spouse had an even stronger calming effect.

What's more, couples who reported a higher level of satisfaction with their marriage experienced a greater psychological benefit from holding hands. They saw the most significant attenuation of the brain systems involved in the emotional and behavioral threat responses.

"It's not only about just the tactile qualities of the hand you're holding," Coan said. "It's also a lot about whose hand it is, and what your experience is with that person."

The rise of tech inventions to treat loneliness

This isn't the first time humans have invented a robot with the primary purpose of holding hands. Coan and Holt-Lunstad both remember attending a conference in the Netherlands in 2015, where a similar gadget was passed around.

The main difference, Holt-Lunstad said, is that the robot she saw at the conference was connected to a corresponding device that could squeeze the hand of a loved one. That robot duo had a greater emphasis on connecting people who couldn't physically be together, she said.

Considering that this invention came up five years ago, people were clearly feeling lonely long before the coronavirus pandemic. But more people are socially isolated now than ever, and the distance can take a toll on physical and mental health.

How loneliness affects your health
Holt-Lunstad said social isolation and feelings of loneliness increase the risk of premature mortality as much as obesity or physical inactivity. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of 
heart disease, stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.

If you can't afford a hand-holding robot, small gestures like calling a friend or sending them a card can help both the sender and the receiver feel less lonely, Holt-Lunstad said.

Expressing gratitude can establish similar feelings of connection, and taking a walk around the neighborhood can remind you you're part of a community with the added benefits of physical activity.

https://www.insider.com/robot-is-designed-to-hold-your-hand-when-youre-lonely-2020-12


 

Edited by satoori
articles
Link to post
Share on other sites

It's really interesting how we're overpopulated and yet we're also so lonely.

tenor.gif

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.

Back to Top