Mental Health and Wellbeing in Japan: Social, Cultural, and Political Determinants

Norito Kawakami, Akihito Shimazu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter provides an overview of the history and current status of mental health and mental health care in Japan in the last 50 years. One in 37 people currently receives treatment for any mental disorder, while one in 20 people have experienced a common mental disorder in the past year. Prevalence of mental disorders may not have increased significantly during the last 10–15 years, despite the economic slowdown and social change in this period. Mental hospitals played a central role in treating people with mental disorders, isolated from the community, and the number of beds in mental hospitals per population remains greater in Japan than in other countries. Policy has shifted from inpatient treatment towards community-based care and support, however change is slow. Suicide rates have been influenced by economic factors. The male rate was high between 2000 and 2012. Rates in both sexes have recently declined, but remain above those in other countries. The Japanese have a characteristic perception of wellbeing in the family- and community-oriented collective culture, based on a sense of the meaning of life (ikigai). However, it remains unclear whether the collective culture is entirely beneficial to mental health. In the last decade, Japan has faced several behavioural problems among younger generations, at home and at school. Mental health care in Japan faces many challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHealth in Japan
Subtitle of host publicationSocial Epidemiology of Japan since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780198848134
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1


  • Adolescent mental health
  • Collective culture
  • Economic stagnation
  • Mental disorders
  • Psychiatric care
  • Stigma
  • Suicide
  • Younger generations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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