TOKYO (majirox news) — Company employee Kenji Kobayashi chain-smokes to cope with his lonely lifestyle. He lives in Osaka, while his wife and two daughters live in Tokyo. The 44-year-old was transferred from his firm’s Tokyo branch to its Osaka branch two years ago, which is a common practice at many Japanese firms.
“Our choice to split the family was not made lightly,” he said. “But taking into account our children’s school and activities, home mortgage and my own work situation, we thought this would be the best choice.”
He added that smoking is a way to alleviate stress, irritability, help calm his nerves and relax.
He is not alone. According to a recent University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine survey, Japanese husbands living apart from their families — which is so common that there is a special term for it, “tanshin-funin” — were twice as likely to be heavy smokers than men living with their families.
More than 3,000 married male office workers in their 40 and 50s were asked questions such as if they felt vibrant, frustrated, fatigued, depressed and anxious, and about their physical health.
Many tanshin-funin felt angry, anxious, tired and depressed, said Yoko Moriyama, a researcher of who helped with the survey. They experience the hassle of transferring, living alone, housework and promotional issues.
People with emotional stress may turn to smoking as an attempt to help ease their pain. For example, they may use it to reduce anxiety, provide a sense of calmness and energy, and elevate their mood.
Some evidence does suggests that nicotine has some pain-relief benefits. Nicotine releases brain chemicals that soothe pain, and help increase positive emotions. However, it only eases the pain for a few minutes.
Smoking also causes health problems.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and diminishes a person’s overall health. Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer. It causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
“Smoking causes heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm (a balloon-like bulge in an artery in the chest), emphysema, asthma, hip fractures and cataracts as well. Smokers are at higher risk of developing pneumonia other airway infections.””
Tanshin-funin must have support, Moriyama says, which requires more than willpower and being scared about the health statistics. They need learn strategies for coping and dealing with stress, and find new ways to relax.