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Depression, anxiety among young women high in Japan amid pandemic: researchers

A stethoscope is seen in this file photo. (Getty)

OSAKA -- Anxiety and depression due to the coronavirus pandemic are common among young women, and domestic violence and the fear of being infected with the virus can exacerbate anxiety, a Japan-U.S. research team has found.

    Yusuke Tsugawa, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who was part of the team says, "Not only uniform financial aid like cash handouts, but measures such as nursing care assistance and domestic violence prevention are also necessary."

    Between August and September of 2020, the researchers put out a call for survey respondents between the ages of 15 and 79 through an internet company across Japan's 47 prefectures, and analyzed the results gathered from 25,482 people. To determine whether a respondent was anxious or depressed, the self-administered K6 distress scale was used, in which a six-item inventory is rated on a five-point scale, using questions such as "Did you feel high strung?" and "Did you feel despair?"

    In addition to gender, age and income, respondents were asked whether there were people requiring nursing care that they were in charge of, if they had ever experienced domestic violence, if they lived in an area under a state of emergency declaration, and whether they feared the coronavirus or had experienced discrimination because of it. The responses were analyzed after adjusting for population distribution.

    Results showed that women were 1.6 times more likely to feel anxious or depressed than men. In addition, people aged 29 and under were around 2.4 times more likely to feel that way than those aged between 45 and 59. In terms of income, low-income and high-income people were each about 1.7 times more likely to feel anxious or depressed than those in the middle-income bracket.

    Among women aged 29 and under, those who are in charge of people requiring nursing care were about four times as likely to feel anxious or depressed than those who are not, while those with experience being subjected to domestic violence were approximately three times more likely. Those with fear of the coronavirus and who had experienced COVID-19-related discrimination were 1.9 times and 2.4 times more likely, respectively. Whether one was married and the level of income did not seem to make much of a difference among women in this age group.

    The number of people in Japan who died by suicide in 2020 increased by 3.7% from the previous year to 20,919 (preliminary figure), with men accounting for 13,943 deaths and women accounting for 6,976. It was reported in January 2021 that while men's suicides had gone down in that same period by 1%, women's suicides went up by 14.5%. The effects of the economic downturn have been pointed out as having had an impact, but no detailed analysis into the specific cause has been conducted. To sound out the cause of the latest trend, the survey highlighted anxiety and depression, which can be precursors to suicide.

    "Risk factors among young women differ from those among the general population," says Tsugawa. "Young women are affected more by burdens in the household, such as domestic violence or the presence of someone requiring nursing care, or having experienced discrimination relating to the coronavirus than by financial factors. In addition to economic support, nursing care assistance and domestic violence prevention for young women is necessary."

    (Japanese original by Satoshi Takano, Osaka Regional News Department)

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