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Nearly 5 trillion yen worth productivity lost annually on women's illnesses: research

Illnesses among full-time working women caused by female-specific diseases such as cervical cancer and breast cancer cost Japanese society an estimated 4.95 trillion yen every year in lost productivity, researchers have reported.

    The size of losses calculated by researchers at the University of Tokyo and other institutions comes to 5 percent of the country's general account budget for fiscal 2015. Researchers additionally found that medical fees for such illnesses would total 1.42 trillion yen.

    In what is believed to be the first detailed research on the effects of women's health issues on society, the team surveyed 2,091 full-time working women in regular employment from different backgrounds -- from healthy individuals to those diagnosed with cervical cancer, breast cancer or endometriosis. The average age of the study subjects was 42. In addition to subjects' medical backgrounds, the research took into consideration results of a survey on household income, spending on medication and employment status as of November 2015.

    Researchers found that the loss of productivity caused by women's health issues, such as when workers must take days off for medical reasons, was estimated to add up to 4.95 trillion yen per year, 890 billion yen higher than the amount estimated among those who did not have such illnesses. This is because the job productivity among the women with female-specific diseases is believed to be lower as they need to see their doctor regularly or take leaves of absence to be treated at hospital, among other reasons.

    Meanwhile, only 20 percent of the study subjects see obstetrics and gynecology doctors regularly for treatment. The most common reason for not seeing such doctors regularly (at 53.2 percent) was that the women did not feel it was necessary because they were healthy, while 27 percent said they had never undergone medical checkups for female-specific diseases, underscoring a lack of awareness of the importance of ob-gyn examination and treatment among women.

    Ataru Igarashi, a specially appointed associate professor at the University of Tokyo, who conducted the research, pointed out the significance of the impact of women's diseases on society, and added, "The central and municipal governments need to include examinations for female-related illnesses in regular health checkups, as well as take steps to improve the screening rate for ob-gyn examinations."

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