Children's medical visits fall 20% as parents opt not to skip work

COVID keeps kids in Japan away from doctors as families struggle

Nikkei -- May 15
TOKYO -- Young children in Japan made 20% fewer doctor visits last year. Some experts credit widespread mask-wearing but others say many parents kept their children away from hospitals out of fear they would not be able to work if their kids contract the novel coronavirus.

The number of outpatient visits by children younger than 10 fell 23.8% in 2021 from 2019, before the outbreak of the pandemic, compared to a 15% drop among 65- to 70-year-olds and an average 7.4% decline for all age groups, according to research by the Nikkei based on medical payment data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Cases of influenza and other infectious diseases among children have "noticeably declined thanks to mask wearing and other anti-COVID measures," said Tadashi Matsuda, a member of the Japan Pediatric Association.

Some working parents are reluctant to take children to the hospital for fear they would be confined at home should their child become infected with the coronavirus or test positive, according to experts familiar with the issue.

People covered by the national insurance plan have an average annual income of 880,000 yen ($6,740), compared to 2.22 million yen for those under cooperative insurance for large companies and 2.45 million yen for those with fraternal insurance for public servants.

Low-income households are not the only ones keeping children away from the hospital. Some parents who work full time also worry that their job evaluations and chances for promotion could suffer if they take long leaves of absence. These include dual-income parents who heavily depend on nursery and other child care facilities. ...continue reading