Over 20% of public health care center staff in many of Japan's 47 prefectures suffered from overwork last year due to their duties in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a level that could increase the risk of death, a survey by an umbrella organization of labor unions showed Thursday.

The All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union found in its survey that around 23% of the 1,771 respondents said their monthly overtime work was over 80 hours, considered a threshold that could raise the risk of karōshi (death from overwork).

The latest results highlight the continued challenges of labor shortages and concerns over mental health for those on the front line, as the pandemic is still far from over even after more than two years and Japan struggles with its sixth wave driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.