Japanese Language and Depression

Yesterday I read a very interesting article on Japanese newspaper.
According to it, Japanese language relates to depression. In deed there are many people who are suffering from depression in Japan. One of my best friends committed suicide from depression fifteen years ago as well. Right now depression is a serious problem for us.
However, I’ve never thought Japanese language related to depression.

Compared to other language, Japanese language seems to be vague. I agree with the opinion. When we speak Japanese, we sometimes say “…..だったり。(dattari)”, “……みたいな。(mitaina)” or “…..って言うか。(tteiuka)”
at the end of sentences. We can understand both positive meaning and negative meaning when we hear the phrases. We judge from the sentences which meaning the sentence has.

In second, we have lots of words about the first person. Although in English only “I” is the first person, Japanese language has plural words about the first person like “わたし(watashi)”, “ぼく(boku)”, “あたし(atashi)”,
“おれ(ore)” something like that. We use those words to various relationships with various people.

We also don’t use greeting words so many times to strangers.
We often use “すみません” in spite of “ありがとう(arigatou)” in our conversation. Basically “すみません(sumimasen)”has the meaning of “I’m sorry.”, but we use this phrase as “thank you very much.”.

The article say that these factors make our conversation get more complicated. When we listen to these complicated sentences, we feel stressed a lot. In addition to that, since we don’t have simple and easy greeting phrases like “Hi” in English, we don’t greet to strangers very often. That makes us feel that we are isolate or out of group. And we also feel stressed a lot. The author of the article says that stress and depression has a strong relationship.

I think that if we speak Japanese with a lot of stress, it is very sad. However, it is very true that there are lots of depression people in Japan. I don’t think only our language occur depression, but our language might be one of factors of depression.
What do you think about that?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brandon
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 14:40:37

    Yumi, I think that is how it is with most people. They are nervous when they speak foreign languages.


  2. yumi
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 16:41:51

    Hi, Brandon. Thank you so much for the comment. Yeah, that’s very true. When we speak foreign languages, we become very nervous. If we speak foreign languages, we can speak without any negative feelings, I think at that time we can speak the language fluently.


  3. kaze
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 13:24:55


    keep in mind the following words are my personal view, i wouldn’t dare to claim to know the truth 🙂

    i doubt that the japanese language causes depressions. actually, i’d go so far as to say it’s bullshit. what causes depressions is pressure at work, lack of time and the like. with only a few free days a year and overtime hours, japanese are amongst the hardest working people in the world.

    language is only one way to communicate, with several other factors mixed in. japanese may sound indirectly, but if you have the key to the language, you can very well unlock the true meanings and as such, it doesn’t make a difference whether you talk directly or evasive, you’re basically saying the same, and so does everyone else in your environment. not sure how well a foreigner can learn to do that, a native obviously can.

    quite the contrary would be the case actually. harmony is king in japanese culture and that reflects in the language. for a foreigner, the language sounds very tranquil. try it out, pretend you don’t understand a word, and just listen. that really works, and it’s a funny experience.

    kore kara


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