A reader writes:

My girlfriend is from Finland and she tells me this is a common occurrence in her country, especially among people on public assistance, which is very generous there. One guy had been dead for six years before they found him. From what I can tell it's the result of three aspects of Finnish society:

1. Some welfare applications are front loaded. Extensive interviews are conducted upfront to verify eligibility but once an individual is accepted, the system takes over.

2. They have a highly-automated, electronic system for all financial transactions. You want to write a cheque, it's going to cost you 20 euros. It's been like this for over a decade. For welfare recipients, the state deposits the money in the account and rent payments are set up on a schedule.

3.  Mail delivery is done through a slot in the apartment door and not the pigeon-hole messageboxes that are typically found in North American multi-unit dwellings. The entire apartment would have to fill up before the mailman would notice that no one was collecting the mail.