Better Life Lab Podcast Season Four: American Karoshi

March 17, 2022

The Better Life Lab podcast examines how work shapes our lives and impacts our health, and what needs to change so we can all live fuller, fairer, healthier lives. This season, we’re exploring what I call “American Karoshi” and the future of work and wellbeing. 

Karoshi is a term that literally means “dying from overwork.” In Japan, they see it as a national health issue, and have enacted legislation designed to protect workers.

But here in the United States, we have no such system. We don’t even talk about how work has become so stressful that work itself is now the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. And we’re not talking about the dangers of falling off ladders at construction sites, or going down into coal mines. Those are workplace hazards that OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, monitors and regulates. What they don’t track - and other countries do - is work stress, like long work hours, job insecurity, toxic bosses and work-family conflict. These “psychosocial” stressors are linked to cardiovascular disease, chronic mental and physical illnesses and even death.

This season, we’re imagining what a better future of work and wellbeing could be.

You’ll hear stories from workers and advice from researchers about what needs to change for us all to live fuller, fairer, healthier and happier lives.

The podcast is a partnership of New America and Slate, and sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Subscribe to get all the new episodes on Slate, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, or the platform of your choice. 

If you have a question, story or idea or want to share a comment on the podcast, contact us at Be sure to also subscribe to the Lab's newsletter, Your Life, Better, to stay up to date on our work and receive podcast updates. Follow us on Twitter @BetterLifeLab and @BrigidSchulte.

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Listen to Seasons 1 and 2 of the Better Life Lab Podcast on Slate

The Better Life Lab podcast, explores how work shapes our lives, affects our health and wellbeing and impacts our relationships. We explore what isn’t working with work, and what needs to change so we can all live fuller, fairer healthier lives. On each episode, host Brigid Schulte weaves together deeply personal conversations - compelling stories of people’s struggles and triumphs with what we somewhat simplistically call work-life balance. Accessible discussions about science and research with experts help us see that we’re not alone in our struggles. That work-life balance is hard. And that it will take all of us - individuals, organizations, public policy and cultural norms shifting - to make work - and life - better. For everyone.

The podcast, a production of New America and Slate and sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is available on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Slate, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Season One guests include talks with behavioral economist and bestselling author Dan Ariely on our obsession with busyness; Stanford business professor and author of Dying for a Paycheck Jeff Pfeffer on America’s overwork culture; a bank executive who took summers off as a young mother and still made it to the C-suite, and members of a Washington, DC chapter of Workaholics Anonymous struggling to overcome what they see as a life-sucking addiction to working all the time, even as they’re rewarded for it at work.

Season Two features Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried and Juliet Schor, economist and author of The Overworked American, on how America’s appetite for endless growth keeps us on the work treadmill; the stress not only of work-life conflict, but work-work conflict as jobs become more complex and demanding; Merlin Mann, productivity guru and inventor of the Inbox Zero concept on why we hate e-mail; hourly workers living impossible lives with unpredictable schedules set by an algorithm; workers in Japan who no longer want to work til they drop; and couples struggling to fairly share the load at both work and at home, and why it can be so hard.

To listen to Better Life Lab podcast’s third season - the weekly live and unedited Crisis Conversations of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted work and life - click here

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