Mental health in Japan: an opportunity for insurance to help close the protection gap

Poor mental health has a significant negative economic and social impact in Japan. There is little open discussion of mental illness and many Japanese do not seek help until their symptoms are debilitating. This reticence is rooted in historical stigma but also in nationwide mental health risk triggers including a rapidly ageing population and periods of economic stagnation.

The government has sought to improve awareness and discussion of mental health. It has extended the national insurance scheme to cover mental illness, but public provision is not enough. Patients have limited consulting time with psychiatrists and lack coverage for alternative therapies, so do not always receive appropriate care.

The insurance industry has a vital role to play in the mental health landscape. As well as providing solutions to reduce the financial burden on the mentally ill and their families, insurers can help to fill shortfalls in public insurance provision and address inefficiencies in the healthcare system. 

COVID-19 is proving to be a catalyst for open conversations about mental illness in countries globally. This climate of more open dialogue on mental health creates an opportunity for insurers to help to close the mental health protection gap in Japan. 

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