Surge in mental health issues among younger employees in Japan

Younger employees’ mental health struggles, exacerbated by pandemic-induced stressors, highlight a concerning trend in workplace wellbeing.
By: | December 4, 2023

Against the backdrop of today’s stress-laden society, a survey by the Japan Productivity Centre has revealed an increase in the number of young employees experiencing mental health issues related to their jobs.

The survey, which was conducted among HR personnel at listed organisations, found that the rate of mental health issues among employees in their teens and 20s soared to a record high of 43.9% from 29% recorded in 2021. The rate for employees in their 30s also rose to a new high of 26.8%.

While the mental health rate for employees in their teens and 20s had shown a gradual increase since 2008, it remained relatively stable in the 2017, 2019, and 2021 surveys. The Japan Productivity Centre attributed the spike to the challenges faced by younger employees who joined organisations during the pandemic. Their struggles in building interpersonal connections and acquiring essential work skills while navigating remote work arrangements have contributed to heightened stress levels.

In addition to individual challenges, the survey highlighted a shift in the overall perception of mental health in the workplace. The percentage of organisations reporting an increase in mental health issues had been on a downward trend since 2006, reaching a low of 22.9% in 2021. In the latest survey, however, this percentage has surged to 45%. This increase coincides with a decrease in the number of organisations stating that emotional struggles among employees were either unchanged or decreasing.

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The Japan Productivity Centre suggested that this change in responses could be attributed to the transformative impact of the pandemic on work styles and the evolving concept of the workplace. The agency emphasised the need to closely monitor whether this abrupt in mental health concerns is a temporary response to these significant changes or indicative of a more enduring trend, reported