Dead beat

Karoshi -- death from overwork -- has struck corporate bigwigs in Japan. Now, white-collared workers and women too are being affected and a worried labour ministry has announced a set of initiatives to deal with the problem (The Lancet, Vol 340 No 8819). Karoshi, characterised by sudden death caused by stroke, strikes adults in their 30s and 40s after a period of prolonged intensive work.

The labour ministry recognised karoshi only in the late 1980s and now plans regular medical check-ups and seminars to manage stress and other work-related illnesses. Over the past three years, 110 deaths have been attributed to overdemanding work schedules. But lawyers of bereaved families put the karoshi toll at about 10,000 each year.