Japan Gets a Minister of Loneliness to Tackle Isolation and Stress Caused by Pandemic

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has reportedly launched a cabinet post meant to alleviate loneliness and social isolation that have been the by-products of this coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic, the need for social distancing and strict restrictions on mobility and social interactions have had an adverse impact on mental health with more and more people feeling stressed, isolated and lonely. In Japan, the pandemic and everything else that it brought on, led to an increase in the number of suicides.

For long, Japan has had one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, according to The Japan Times. However, the rate had fallen in the past one decade. The pandemic undid years of hard work as the rate surged for the first time in years and was much higher than the previous year. According to government data, 20,919 people died by suicide in 2020, which is 3.7% more as compared to 2019.

Keeping all this in mind, Suga appointed regional revitalization minister Tetsushi Sakamoto as a part-time Minister of Loneliness to address the issues of social isolation and loneliness among the citizens.

The data from the government also showed that more women died by suicide in 2020 as compared to men. According to reports, women suffered from isolation related stress more than men.

"Women are suffering from isolation more (than men), and the number of suicides is on a rising trend. I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively," Suga said to Sakamoto at a meeting.

The Japanese Prime Minister is also planning to organise an emergency forum in February in order to get experts to discuss the serious situation and suggest measures which could alleviate the problem that people are facing.

He also said that he hopes to promote activities among people that could eliminate loneliness and promote social interactions.

Japan is not the only country to have adopted policies for loneliness. In 2018, the United Kingdom government also appointed a minister of loneliness because of problems among its older generation. In Japan, however, the problem afflicts people of all generations, age groups and gender.