Less money, mo’ problems.

On 3 October, Tokyo Medical University revealed the results of a survey conducted during the first wave of COVID-19 infections in Japan from February to April. Their findings indicate that the percentage of people suspected to have severe depression rose as annual incomes decreased.

The study was conducted on about 2,100 adults in the Kanto region of Japan and measured the proportion of people suspected of having severe depression or other anxiety disorders. It was done because even after the initial impact of COVID-19 subsided, Japanese people’s incomes have yet to show any improvement.

As such, we can expect a significant rise in clinical depression cases in Japan that ought to be addressed. Tokyo Medical University lecturer Hiroyuki Kikuchi told media, “Mental health measures aimed at low-income earners is needed.”

Many readers of the news online, however, disagreed.

“Sounds like paying people more money is the cure to me.”
“People with low-incomes lead a very uncertain life, thank you for that information.”
“So their conclusion is not to just give everyone money, but to instead spend it indirectly on medical health treatment?”
“Money doesn’t solve everything, but it does solve about 90 percent of life’s problems.”
“Just give 100 million yen to everyone who needs it, and watch depression rates plummet.”
“Low-income leads to a poor diet, which leads to poor mental health.”
“Is it that they’re depressed because they have a low-income, or do they have a low-income because they are depressed?”

That last question is really pivotal in considering the best course of action. For example, if a low-income is the result of a depression rather than the cause, then Kikuchi’s recommendations would probably work well at bringing help to people who need it but may not be able to afford it.

Conversely, if lack of money is the root cause of the depression, like many comments seem to think, isn’t therapy the same as helping someone who’s getting hit with a baseball bat by offering bandages rather than stopping the guy with the bat?

Probably both sides are correct to some degree. A lack of resources can only add to overall anxiety that could exacerbate depression, in turn inhibiting the person’s own ability to improve matters, and the spiral continues.

So, a plan that both raises the standard of living and lowers the hurdle of access to proper mental health care might be the best bet in stemming the growing problem of depression in Japan.

Source: Kyodo, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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