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Hikikomori: The Japanese Cabinet Office’s 2016 Survey of Acute Social Withdrawal

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In September 2016, the Cabinet Office of Japan published the results of an epidemiological survey focusing on acute social withdrawal (hikikomori). This article summarizes and assesses the major features of the survey. It aims at facilitating research and international exchanges on a mental health and social problem affecting at least 541,000 people in Japan that seems to have spread to industrialized societies.
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The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 15 | Issue 5 | Number 1 | Mar 2017
1
Hikikomori: The Japanese Cabinet Office’s 2016 Survey of Acute Social
Withdrawal
Nicolas Tajan, Hamasaki Yukiko, Nancy Pionnié-Dax
Abstract
In September 2016, the Cabinet Office of Japan
published the results of an epidemiological
survey focusing on acute social withdrawal
(hikikomori). This article summarizes and
assesses the major features of the survey. It aims
at facilitating research and international
exchanges on a mental health and social problem
affecting at least 541,000 people in Japan that
seems to have spread to industrialized societies.
Introduction
Hikikomori designates a phenomenon of social
withdrawal in which individuals remain locked
in their room for several months or years without
social relationships. Saitō Tamaki’s book (Saitō
1998, 2013) played an important role in the
understanding of the phenomenon, which
became the subject of numerous TV reports and
newspaper articles. An increasing number of
articles were published in Japanese, and some in
English peer-reviewed journals (see for instance
Ogino 2004; Kaneko 2006; Borovoy 2008). It
includes important articles published in The
Asia-Pacific Journal such as Tuukka Toivonen’s
and Aaron Miller’s insights on contemporary
NPO and NGO supporting distressed youths
(Miller and Toivonen 2010), and the interview of
a well-known figure in the hikikomori-NEET
community Futagami Nōki (Futagami and Asano
2006). Scientific discussion of the issue struggled
with the legitimacy of using the term hikikomori
in psychiatry (Tateno et al 2012); the prevalence
of multiple mental disorders among the
hikikomori population (Kondo et al. 2013;
Hamasaki 2015; Ryder 2015); the appropriateness
of considering hikikomori as a culture bound
syndrome or a cultural concept of distress (Teo
and Gaw 2010; Tajan 2015b); its relationship with
school non-attendance (Tajan 2015a) and subject
formation (Tajan 2015c). First reviews of the
literature were published in 2015 (Tajan 2015b; Li
and Wong 2015).
First reports from the Ministry of Health Labor
and Welfare were published in 2001 and 2003,
whereas the 2010 report is considered as a
milestone in hikikomori studies (Kōsei rōdō shō
2001, 2003, 2010). Also, in 2010, a shorter survey
was published by the Cabinet Office of Japan
(Nihon Naikakufu 2010). We discuss this survey
below, which estimates the hikikomori
population.
Here, we present for the first time in English, a
synthesis of the youths’ life survey published by
the Cabinet Office of Japan in September 2016.
We include details concerning questions such as
“What applies to me?” (III-8) and “daily life
habits” (III-9). This 169-page survey is
descriptive. It presents data about the
phenomenon while never discussing, providing
statistical analysis, or interpreting the results. In
the present synthesis, we present the survey
while remaining faithful to this descriptive spirit
before comprehensively assessing it in the
conclusion.
2016 hikikomori survey
The survey was published in September 2016 and
is entitled Wakamono no seikatsu ni kansuru
chōsa hōkokusho”—in English, “Research survey
of youth’s life” (Nihon Naikakufu 2016).
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Although the survey is dedicated to hikikomori,
the term hikikomori is surprisingly not
mentioned in the title.
It starts by describing the results of the first
investigation in 2010. At the time, the Cabinet
Office formed a team of psychiatrists and clinical
psychologists to produce a report entitled
“Investigation on Youths’ Consciousness
(Investigation on Hikikomori) (Nihon Naikakufu
2010). The target of the investigation was a cohort
of 5000 individuals between 15 and 39 years old,
nationwide. In Japan, individuals in this age
range are classified as wakamono meaning
“youth”: in Western industrialized countries, it
would encompass emerging adulthood and
young adulthood (Arnett, Žukauskienė and
Sugimura 2014). Questionnaires were distributed
(randomized distribution) and collected at home.
In total, valid questionnaires completed by 3287
individuals (65.7%) were collected. Among them,
the hikikomori group was composed of 59
individuals (1.79%). Based on demographic
estimates of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications (2008), the hikikomori
corresponded to 696,000 individuals nationwide.
In addition, the investigation included items such
as “I understand the feeling of being
hikikomori, and those who responded
affirmatively were numerous, representing what
was then considered the affinity group, estimated
at 1.55 million individuals nationwide.
Individuals belonging to the affinity group are
not hikikomori themselves.
Following the 2010 results, a similar investigation
was conducted by the Cabinet Office to research
the actual conditions of withdrawal. We present
the principal results, which were made public in
September 2016. The report explains the necessity
of actively supporting youth who are struggling
in their social life and researching their actual
condition. The survey underlines the difficulty of
understanding the relational mechanisms that are
so challenging for troubled youth, especially
those who are hikikomori.
Overview of the survey
Materials and methods
The purpose of the investigation is to determine
the number of individuals experiencing
hikikomori, to identify the nature of appropriate
assistance, to understand the onset and character
of the youths’ difficulties, and to promote the
implementation of an assistance network, in
every region, nationwide.
The target of the investigation is 15- to 39-year-
old individuals and their families living in 198
municipalities nationwide. Auto-questionnaires
were distributed (randomized distribution) to
5000 individuals (90.3% live with one or several
members of their family).
The investigators distributed and collected the
questionnaire at home from December 11, 2015 to
December 23, 2015.
Group definitions
A first portion of the investigation allowed the
identification of a group of “hikikomori in the
broad sense” (Kōgi no hikikomori gun), based on
precise inclusion and exclusion criteria. The aim
was to focus on whether autonomy was acquired,
an important issue in terms of Japanese youth
policy (Toivonen 2008).
Individuals who responded to questions Q20 and
Q22 with the following responses were included
in the group of hikikomori:
Q20: “In what circumstances do you
go out?” (Fudan dono kurai
gaishutsu shimasu ka)
5. I only go out for my hobbies.
6. I go out in the neighborhood, to
the convenience store, etc.
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7. I leave my room, but not the
house.
8. I rarely leave the house.
Q22: “How long have you
experienced this condition?”
Those who responded “more than six months”
were included as hikikomori.
Individuals who responded as follows to Q23,
Q13, and Q18 were excluded: Q23: “What
triggered your current state?” Those who
selected “disease” and responded schizophrenia,
or gave the name of a physical disease;
“pregnant”; “other” or wrote that they work at
home, gave birth, or take care of their children’s
education, were excluded.
Q13: “Are you currently working?”
Each individual among those who
stayed home and who responded
“housewife/husband” or “cleaner”
was excluded.
Q18: “State what you often do when
you are at home.” Individuals who
responded doing domestic tasks or
helping with their children’s
education were excluded.
Consequently, those who gave responses 6, 7,
and 8 to Q20 above are defined as “hikikomori in
the strict sense” (Kyōgi no hikikomori). Those
who responded 5 (I only go out for my hobbies)
to Q20 are defined as “quasi-hikikomori” (jun
hikikomori). The group defined as hikikomori in
the broad sense is composed of the sum of
individuals defined as hikikomori in the
strict sense and quasi-hikikomori. Among the
3104 valid questionnaires (62.0%) collected, 49
(1.57%) satisfy the definition of hikikomori in the
broad sense. According to demographic
estimates of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications (2015), the population aged 15
to 39 is comprised of 34.45 million people, while
the estimated number of individuals with
hikikomori in the broad sense, is estimated,
based on the present survey, as 541,000.
Additionally, individuals who feel sympathy for,
or those who understand hikikomori, and those
who think they might want to withdraw, are
extracted and defined as an affinity group
(shinwa gun), as follows. Those who responded
to Q32 (“what applied to me”) “agree” or “rather
agree” (at least one time to the four items) with
13 to 16 below, comprise the affinity group.
(13) I understand the feelings of
those who shut themselves in at
home or in their room and don’t go
out.
(14) I already thought about
shutting myself in at home or in my
room.
(15) If there’s an unpleasant event, I
don’t want to go out.
(16) If there’s a reason, I think it’s
normal to shut myself in at home or
in my room. Individuals in the
group hikikomori in the broad sense
are excluded from the affinity
group. According to the
representative sample of the present
survey, the estimated number of
individuals in the affinity group is
1.656 million nationwide. The
general group identified as
hikikomori is composed of the total
number of respondents (3104) minus
the group with hikikomori in the
broad sense (49 individuals), and
the affinity group (150 individuals),
i.e., 2,905 individuals.
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Results
1. Gender
The group with hikikomori in the broad sense is
comprised of 63.3% men and 36.7% women. In
the affinity group, 40.7% are men and 59.3% are
women. In the general group, 48.0% are men and
52.0 % are women. See Chart 1. Note: Graphs and
tables were prepared by the authors. They were
not included in the survey of the Cabinet Office
but were designed to present the data
comprehensively.
Chart 1: Gender (hikikomori, affinity group,
general group)
2. Age
The group classified as hikikomori in the broad
sense was comprised of individuals aged 15–19
(10.2%), 20–24 (24.5%), 25–29 (24.5%), 30–34
(20.4%), and 35–39 (20.4%). The affinity group
was comprised of individuals aged 15 to 19
(27.3%), 20–24 (24.7%), 25–29 (21.3%), 30–34
(18.0%), and 35–39 (8.7%). The general group was
comprised of individuals aged 15–19 (18.1%),
20–24 (16.8%), 25–29 (17.2%), 30–34 (22.0%), and
35–39 (25.8%). See Chart 2.
Chart 2: Age (hikikomori, affinity group,
general group)
3. Education
The percentage of those who responded “I am
currently studying” was 24.4% in the general
group, 33.3% in the affinity group, and 10.2% in
the group with hikikomori in the broad sense.
The percentage of those who responded “I
already graduated” was 71.7% in the general
group, 62.0% in the affinity group, and 63.3% in
the group with hikikomori in the broad sense.
The percentage of those who responded “I
dropped out” was 3.4% in the general group,
4.0% in the affinity group, and 24.5% in the
group with hikikomori in the broad sense. The
percentage of those who responded “I am
temporarily not attending school” was 2.0% in
the group with hikikomori in the broad sense.
See Chart 3.
Chart 3: Education (hikikomori, affinity group,
general group)
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4. Current professional situation When asked
about their current employment situation, 43.2%
of those in the general group responded “I am
working.” The percentage of those who
responded “housewife/husband” or “assistance
in domestic tasks” was 7.4% in the general group.
The percentage of those who responded
“student” was 32.0% in the affinity group; the
percentage of those who responded “I am
registered in a part-time work agency, etc., but I
don’t work at the moment” was 8.2% in the
group with hikikomori in the broad sense. The
percentage of those who responded “currently
unemployed” in the group with hikikomori in
the broad sense was 67.3%, and it was 9.3% in the
affinity group.
5. The age when hikikomori begins When asked
about the approximate age when their current
situation started, for those in the group with
hikikomori in the broad sense, 12.2% responded
“before 14,” 30.6% “between 15 and 19,” 34.7%
“between 20 and 24,” 8.2% “between 25 and 29,”
4.1% “between 30 and 34,” and 10.2% “between
35 and 39.” See Chart 4.
Chart 4: The age when hikikomori begins
6. The duration of hikikomori When asked about
the duration of withdrawal, for those in the
group with hikikomori in the broad sense,
12.2% reported “from six months to one year,”
28.6% “3 to 5 years,” 12.2% “5 to 7 years,” and
34.7% “more than 7 years.” See Chart 5.
Chart 5: The duration of hikikomori
7. The trigger of hikikomori The 49 individuals
in the group with hikikomori in the broad sense
were asked what triggered their current state: 9
individuals responded “school non-attendance”
or “I did not adapt to the workplace,” 8 reported
that “my job-seeking activities failed” or “my
human relationships were bad,” 7 said “illness,”
3 said “I failed the exam,” and 2 responded “I did
not adapt to the university.” Among the 15
individuals who responded “other,” were the
following responses: “apathy,” “no specific
reason,” “because I am inside,” “I never really
thought about it,” “the company moved its
services,” and “I wanted to do what I wanted.”
Many did not give a specific response. See Chart
6.
Chart 6: The trigger of hikikomori
8. About Q32, “What applies to me?” and Q34,
“Habits of daily life”
Results are detailed in Table 1.
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Regarding question Q34-3 “In the morning, I
wake up at a fixed time.” 44.9% in the group
hikikomori in the broad sense; 39.3% in the
affinity group; 22.7% in the general group
disagreed with the statement.
Concluding remarks
In the 2010 survey, the estimate of the hikikomori
population was 696,000 and the 2016 survey
estimated their number at 541,000. The estimated
total number of hikikomori individuals seems to
have decreased. However, according to the 2010
survey, 23.7% of those belonging to the category
hikikomori were between 35 and 39 years old. As
this group was older than 39 in 2015, they
represent an aging hikikomori population that
was not included in the 2016 survey.
Nevertheless, the aging of this population is a
great problem in contemporary Japanese society.
Regarding the duration of the withdrawal, the
comparison of the two surveys’ results shows a
lengthening of the withdrawal: 34.7% were
hikikomori for more than 7 years in 2016, while
only 16.7% were in 2010. The phenomenon thus
accelerated during the last six years.
Again, the 2016 survey does not include those
who are above 39 for reasons of age. In this
respect, it would be necessary to take into
account the hikikomori population between 40
and 50 years old. In fact, researchers, clinical
practitioners, social workers, and parents have
been concerned for many years about the aging
of the hikikomori population.
The absence of consideration of individuals
above 39 is one of the reasons we conclude, along
with other experts (Kato et al. 2017), that 541,000
is an under-estimation of the phenomenon. Other
reasons might be cited as well. For instance, 38%
of the questionnaires were considered invalid. It
is highly unlikely that current hikikomori
individuals would not be in this group. As some
of them are distressed, their responses could
easily become invalid.
In addition, the criteria defining the affinity
group seem questionable. We understand why it
is interesting to distinguish an affinity group
from the hikikomori group, but some members of
the affinity group may themselves be hikikomori.
One approach could be to consider the affinity
group as an “at-risk group.”
The affinity group represented 1.55 million
individuals in 2010, and would be composed of
1.65 million individuals today. In fact, the group
at risk of becoming hikikomori, those who are
struggling at school or work, never stops
increasing. This group is highly visible in Q32
where one observes hypersensitivity and
communication problems in interpersonal
APJ | JF 15 | 5 | 1
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relation settings. It would be possible, and
important, to better support these individuals in
school, work, and medical settings. In fact, no
one previously paid attention to the affinity
group. Since the survey showed that it was a
hypersensitive population, measures should be
taken to support this suffering population.
Alternatively, nothing indicates that this affinity
group is a real “at-risk group.” We would rather
consider that, although they cognitively feel close
to hikikomori individuals, or share the same
ideas, the very fact they have not developed this
behavior should lead us to question the
“protecting” factors they might benefit from,
environmental factors such as family.
Sociological, anthropological, and psychological
further research could focus on why they are not
hikikomori and what kind of strategies they
developed to cope with their problems.
Additionally, men represented 66.1% of
hikikomori individuals in the 2010 survey, and
63.3% in the 2016 survey, which is a slight
decrease. Given that women in the affinity group
of the 2016 survey represent 59.3%, one could not
reasonably claim that hikikomori is essentially a
problem among men.
In terms of the daily life of hikikomori, responses
to Q34 show that the level of autonomy is low,
and the rhythm of daily life is disturbed. This is a
consequence of social withdrawal and,
simultaneously, one could think that it is also a
risk factor. In a society where the birthrate is
constantly declining, strong parental intervention
might cause problems in terms of youth
autonomy. In the future, it would be important to
focus on developmental mechanisms of
hikikomori and to facilitate autonomy from
childhood to prevent co-dependency (child-
parent). Here, a few remarks are necessary to
explain why and how the declining birthrate is
related to co-dependency.
When several children are present in the family,
like earlier Japanese families, the time spent by a
parent with each child, individually, is lower
compared with families in which there is only
one child. With the decline of natality and the
increase of families with a single child, certain
expressions appeared such as boshi kapuseru
(mother child capsule) and mama tomo (mother
friend).
Boshi kapuseru designate a phenomenon in
which the mother is isolated from her own family
and the local community, alone with her child. In
this situation, Japanese psychiatrists, nurses, and
social and clinical practitioners found that it
became difficult for mothers to separate from
their child. For instance, they might tend to do
many things for the child. This problem of co-
dependency could be explained in various ways.
The model of the housewife raising the child and
the father as the breadwinner (Lock 1995) is
weakening in Japan, because increasing numbers
of mothers work part-time. However, this does
not mean that they are financially autonomous
(in this sense the model might just have adapted
while not fundamentally changing the structure
of gender inequality). Also, the model of the
mother housewife / father breadwinner remains
very strong compared to other countries, and
women are still expected to quit work during
pregnancy (while maternity leave opportunities
it is an open secret that women are strongly
discouraged from asking their employers for it,
with exceptions such as civil servants). Notably,
there is a generation of mothers who received
university education, and who stay at home to
raise their children. For those with university
education who might work part-time, salary
inequality with their husband is important and
women experience the failure to fulfill their
professional goals. In this context, co-dependency
appears. In extreme cases, the “mother-child
capsule” is combined with strong gender
inequality, sometimes contributing to child
neglect and abuse.
APJ | JF 15 | 5 | 1
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Another phenomenon known as “mama tomo
(mother-friend) describes mothers constantly
comparing their child to other children, and
comparing children among themselves. The
spread of this competitive mindset, which aims
at reinforcing social and academic success, may
also contribute to the creation of co-dependence.
Overall, the survey is highly informative.
However, statistical analysis and qualitative
analysis remain to be conducted. The increasing
number of articles on the topic from diverse
epistemological background with diverse
methodologies have created confusion
concerning the definition, the epidemiological
scope, and the severity of designated behavioral
disorders. The present article seeks to better
define the problem and the characteristics
associated with social withdrawal and to
facilitate investigations and international
exchanges on a phenomenon that seems to
extend to other industrialized societies.
Acknowledgements
Nicolas Tajan thanks the Japan Society for the
Promotion of Science (Postdoctoral Fellowship
for Foreign Researcher [standard, 2015]);
Hamasaki Yukiko thanks Kyoto Women’s
University.
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族の社会的孤立要因 : SSP2015を用いた地域信頼
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大学大学院文学研究科研究論集 Research
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Nicolas Tajan (/authors/view/14688)
Nicolas Tajan, Ph.D.
JSPS postdoctoral researcher
Kyoto University Institute for Research in Humanities
Yoshidahonmachi, Sakyo-ku, 605-8501 Kyoto, Japan
Hamasaki Yukiko (/authors/view/14689)
Hamasaki Yukiko, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Psychiatrist
Kyoto Women’s University, Faculty for the Study of Contemporary Society
35, Kitahiyoshi-cho, Imakumano, Higashiyama-ku, 605-8501 Kyoto, Japan
Nancy Pionnié-Dax (/authors/view/14690)
Nancy Pionnié-Dax, M.D.
APJ | JF 15 | 5 | 1
11
Psychiatrist, Department Director
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department, EPS ERASME
143 avenue Armand Guillebaud, 92160 Antony, France
... Epidemiological research carried out in several Asian countries has shown a prevalence of hikikomori between 1.2% and 2.3%, higher male vulnerability and onset in adolescence and young adulthood [15][16][17][18]. An online survey conducted in China estimated a prevalence of 6.6% for hikikomori with no apparent gender difference [19]. ...
... Prevalence of lifetime hikikomori and pre-hikikomori were 1.1% (n = 4) and 1.3% (n = 5), respectively. This result is in line with those of previous studies [15][16][17][18] and shows that social withdrawal and detachment from social realities is a phenomenon encountered in Italy. Taken together our findings have important clinical implications suggesting the usefulness of psychological interventions aimed at increasing the psychosocial skills of participants with or at risk of hikikomori. ...
Article
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A serious form of social withdrawal, initially described within Japan as hikikomori, has received increasing attention from the international scientific community during the last decade. The 25-item Hikikomori Questionnaire (HQ-25) was initially developed and validated in Japan. To date, data on its psychometric properties in other populations where cases of hikikomori have been described are still scarce. Thus, the aims of this study were to (1) translate, adapt, and validate the Italian version of the HQ-25 analyzing its psychometric properties; and (2) verify the association between hikikomori and personality functioning, social support, and problematic Internet use. A sample of 372 Italian adults aged 18 to 50 years completed the HQ-25 and measures of psychoticism, personality dysfunction, social support, and problematic Internet use were employed to test the convergent validity of the HQ-25. The data showed a satisfactory fit for a three-factor model, significantly better than a one-factor model. The three factors (socialization, isolation, and emotional support, as in the original study on the HQ-25) correlated positively with psychoticism, personality dysfunction, and problematic Internet use, and correlated negatively with social support. A lifetime history of hikikomori was present in 1.1% of the sample (n = 4). This is the first study to use the Italian validated version of the HQ-25 with an adult population. The findings from this study provide evidence of the satisfactory psychometric properties of the Italian version of the HQ-25 and support further investigation of the HQ-25 as an instrument to help screen for and investigate the presence of hikikomori.
... Importantly, the authors showed that, in over 50% of cases, onset was during adolescence. The Cabinet Office of Japan [5] published the results of an epidemiological survey on hikikomori among people aged 15 to 39 years, confirming previously observed prevalence and age of onset: 12.2% of individuals with hikikomori reported that their current situation started before they were 14 years old, while 30.6% responded that the withdrawn behavior started between 15 and 19 years old. Thus, hikikomori onset usually occurs during adolescence and young adulthood, at least in Japan. ...
... In the study of Umeda and Kawakami [4], 49% of people afflicted by hikikomori reported a duration of 6-11 months. On the contrary, Tajan et al. [5] showed that only 12% of people with hikikomori socially withdrew for less than a year, while over 75% of cases were socially isolated at home for more than 3 years. Thus, hikikomori represents a source of concern for societies and their economic and public health systems [7]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Hikikomori is a form of social withdrawal that is commonly described as having an onset during adolescence, a life stage when other psychiatric problems can also emerge. This study aimed to adapt the 25-item Hikikomori Questionnaire (HQ-25) for the Italian adolescent population, examining its psychometric properties; associations between hikikomori and psychoticism, depression, anxiety, problematic internet use (PIU), psychotic-like experiences (PLEs), to confirm convergent validity of the HQ-25; and the interaction effect between symptoms of hikikomori and PIU in predicting PLEs. Two-hundred and twenty-one adolescents participated in the study. Measures included the HQ-25, the Psychoticism subscale of the Personality Inventory for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Depression and Anxiety subscales of the Brief Symptom Inventory, the Internet Disorder Scale, and the Brief Prodromal Questionnaire. Data showed a satisfactory fit for a three-factor model for the HQ-25 that is consistent with the original study on the HQ-25. Three factors (socialization, isolation, and emotional support) were associated with psychopathology measures. Six participants reported lifetime history of hikikomori. Symptoms of hikikomori and PIU did not interact in predicting PLEs. This is the first study to validate the HQ-25 in a population of adolescents. Findings provide initial evidence of the adequate psychometric properties of the Italian version of the HQ-25 for adolescents.
... Since hikikomori is absent in the DSM criteria, we evaluated its severity using an evaluation scale previously developed by our group (Appendix 1 in [52]), based on the definition of hikikomori and the spectrum concept proposed by the Japanese Cabinet Office [9,36,56,57]. This evaluation scale comprises two items: (a) absenteeism from school and (b) going out ("the child went out either alone or with friends [unaccompanied by family members] to shop, engage in sports, and/ or socialized with friends"). ...
... Compared to other countries, Japanese fathers' participation in the home is lower, and cooperation between parents in child rearing is also relatively low. An absent father, a subsequent motherchild closeness and over-interference, and the inhibition of children's independence have been repeatedly mentioned in previous studies as factors in the occurrence of hikikomori in Japan [6,50,56]. In Japan, where generally little cooperation exists between parents, and particularly in those families where communication between parents is self-rated as relatively poorer, the above factors may surpass the threshold for triggering hikikomori. ...
Article
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Background Social withdrawal (hikikomori) has become an internationally recognized phenomenon, but its pathology and related factors are not yet fully known. We previously conducted a statistical case-control study on adolescent patients with hikikomori in Japan, which revealed the non-specificity of pathology in patients with hikikomori. Further, environmental factors, such as the lack of communication between parents and Internet overuse, were found to be significant predictors of hikikomori severity. Here, we aimed to conduct a similar preliminary case-control study in France and to compare the results with those from the study conducted in Japan. Methods Parents of middle school students who underwent psychiatric outpatient treatment for hikikomori ( n = 10) and control group parents ( n = 115) completed the Child Behavior Checklist to evaluate their child’s psychopathological characteristics and the Parental Assessment of Environment and Hikikomori Severity Scales, as in our previous study in Japan. We compared the descriptive statistics and intergroup differences in France with those from the previous study conducted in Japan. In the multiple regression analysis to find predictors of hikikomori severity in French and also Japanese subjects, the same dependent and independent variables were chosen for the present study (both differed from the previous study). These were used in order to make accurate intercountry comparisons. Results The comparisons revealed no differences in the pathology of hikikomori between Japan and France. Specifically, both studies found similarly increased scores for all symptom scales, with no specific bias. However, the statistical predictors of hikikomori severity in France (lack of communication between parents and child and lack of communication with the community) differed from those in Japan (lack of communication between parents). Conclusion Hikikomori in Japan and France could be considered essentially the same phenomenon; moreover, our findings demonstrated the universal non-specificity and unbiasedness of the hikikomori pathology. This suggests that hikikomori is not a single clinical category with a specific psychopathology; instead, it is a common phenotype with various underlying pathologies. However, different strategies may be required in each country to prevent the onset and progression of hikikomori.
... With regard to the first element, the suggestion has been made to indicate the severity of the social isolation: persons occasionally leaving the home to interact with others (2-3 days per week) can be qualified as 'mild,' those who rarely leave the home and barely interact with others outside (1 day per week or less) can be classified as 'moderate,' whereas individuals who remain in their room and minimally Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review interact even with cohabiting family members can be defined as 'severe' cases (Kato et al., 2020a). Relatively mild cases of ESW have also been labeled as 'quasi-hikikomori' (Tajan et al., 2017), 'semi-hikikomori' (Su et al., 2021), or 'soft subtype hikikomori' (Pozza et al., 2019): these terms are used for individuals who spend most of the time alone in their home, yet occasionally go out to conduct a hobby or hang out with others. ...
Article
Full-text available
Although it is widely accepted that human beings have an ingrained ‘need to belong,’ there seem to be a substantial subset of young people who seclude themselves for most of the time at home and no longer engage in education or work, ultimately withdrawing from participation in society. In Japan, this phenomenon has been labeled as ‘hikikomori,’ but given its global presence it may be preferable to use the term ‘extreme social withdrawal’ (ESW). In this qualitative review, we provide a description and definition of ESW, provide figures on its prevalence, and discuss a number of associated concepts, including loneliness and “aloneliness,” school absenteeism and dropout, the ‘new’ developmental stage of adultolescence, and the labor force categories of freeter (‘freelance arbeiter’) and NEET (a young person not in employment, education, or training). The core of the paper is focused on the origins of ESW in young people and provides a narrative overview of relevant etiological factors, such as aberrant brain processes, unfavorable temperament, psychiatric conditions, adverse family processes including detrimental parenting, negative peer experiences, societal pressures, and excessive internet and digital media use, which are all placed within a comprehensive developmental psychopathology framework. We will close with a discussion of possible interventions for young people with ESW and formulate a guideline that describes (the temporal order of) various components that need to be included in such a treatment.
... We believe that similar to Hikikomoris elsewhere, Singaporean Hikikomoris are unlikely to interact with researchers and would not seek treatment (27). Even if they were to participate in studies, their responses might be invalidated or recorded as another disorder, due to the high levels of distress they may have experienced before being open to seek treatment (28). ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction: Once a localized Japanese phenomenon, Hikikomori-type social withdrawal has since been observed globally in increasing numbers. However, there is a lack of research about Hikikomori in Singapore. Consequently, local variations of Hikikomori may differ from past research in Japan. Drawing on associations found in international and Japanese Hikikomori research, we explored some variables relevant and generalizable to the Singaporean context. Specifically, we examined the relationships between (1) Hikikomori risk factors, (2) social withdrawal tendencies, (3) depression and anxiety, (4) connections with family and friends, and (5) employment status. Methods: In a cross-sectional survey study (N = 416; Mage = 24.90, SDage = 4.79; females = 236, males = 177, undisclosed = 3), participants were provided a Qualtrics link and asked to complete a questionnaire comprising the NHR scale, LSNS-6, DASS-21, ERQ, and HQ-25. Results: We found that (a) Hikikomori risk factors positively correlated with social withdrawal tendencies and depression and anxiety but negatively correlated with support from family and friends, (b) high Hikikomori risk factors predicted high social withdrawal tendencies, (c) support from friends (one of the psychosocial factors) predicted social withdrawal tendencies together with the Hikikomori risk factors, and (d) social withdrawal tendencies moderated the relationship between Hikikomori risk factors and depression among the emerging adults in Singapore. Conclusion: The current research findings serve as a basis for future Hikikomori research in Singapore.
... Hikikomori is a psychosocial condition characterized by a marked and severe social withdrawal which lead a subject to self-confine in one's home (and/or room) for a prolonged period of at least 3 months (pre-Hikikomori) or 6 months (Hikikomori) . The condition is accompanied by a significant socio-personal-working functional impairment and psychological distress (Tajan et al., 2017;Kato et al., 2019). Originally considered a culture-bound syndrome limited only to Japan, it has been recently recognized as a worldwide phenomenon, associated with social and cultural changes driven by the current post-modern era and Internet age Orsolini et al., 2022). ...
Article
Background Despite a confirmed association between Problematic Internet use (PIU) and hikikomori-like social withdrawal, few studies investigated differences between sexes. Hence, the main objective was identifying psychopathological predictors (including hikikomori-like traits) associated with PIU (vs. non-PIU) across both sexes. Methods A total of 1141 Italian university students were assessed with the Hikikomori Questionnaire-11 (HQ-11), Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21). Student's T-test, bivariate Person's correlations, linear regression and a stepwise binary logistic regression analysis were post-hoc run. CHERRIES guidelines were followed for data reporting. Results PIU university students, independently of sex, had greater psychological problems (p < 0.001) and greater hikikomori traits, compared to non-PIU (respectively, p = 0.010 and p < 0.001). PIU females had a better social quality of life (p = 0.007), and higher anxiety (p = 0.013) and stress (p = 0.051) levels, compared to PIU males. Linear regression analysis showed that depressive (p = 0.001) and stress levels (p = 0.003) as well as Hikikomori traits (p < 0.001) significantly predicted IAT total score in females (p < 0.001). Sex-specific binary logistic analyses showed that hikikomori, psychological distress, alexithymia, and compromised social quality of life predicted PIU in females. In males, PIU is predicted by family annual income, psychopathological distress, alexithymia, and compromised social quality of life, but not by Hikikomori traits. Conclusion Main psychopathological predictors of PIU in Italian university students showed differences across sexes, as hikikomori-like traits are predictors of the emergence of a PIU only in the female sample. Further research studies should better investigate whether female Hikikomori-like young people may display better functioning compared to their male counterparts.
Article
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Mental and public health professionals have paid increasing attention to the hikikomori phenomenon. With this letter, we aim to extend scientific knowledge on the characteristics of hikikomori and pre-hikikomori as reported by Italian participants using previously unpublished data. Presented findings suggest that stressful events and difficulties in interpersonal relationships and in adjusting to the increasing life-phase-related social demands may exert a prominent role in leading to hikikomori.
Article
L'articolo propone una riflessione a partire dalla visione del documentario Essere Hikikomori. La mia vita in una stanza sul crescente fenomeno mondiale dell'isolamento sociale giovanile, con particolare riferimento al contesto italiano. Occupa un posto di rilievo l'intervista ad Alessandro ed Eva, i protagonisti del documentario, i quali offrono al lettore la possibilità di scoprire il vissuto che li ha accompagnati nel prendere parte a questa avventura e i significati che hanno caratterizzato l'evoluzione e l'unicità della propria esperienza di hikikomori.
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Hikikomori represents a severe form of social withdrawal commonly found in Japan. The Japanese social withdrawal is characterized by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare as a condition that causes a person to withdraw and isolate in one's house for six months or more. During this time, they do not attend school, work, or participate in neither social or family interaction. Studies have shown that 613,000 cases of middle-aged existed throughout Japanese society in 2018, and a total of cases up to 1.5 million. The purpose of this article is to provide information to understand better the social withdrawal phenomenon that is common in Japanese society and is spreading worldwide. Also, this article aims to provide a clinical and social review, including the evaluation methods, treatments and management techniques used to support people who are Hikikomori.
Article
Aim. The purpose of this article is to determine some of the personality characteristics of young people who manifest in their social behavior extreme forms of social withdrawal and alienation - hikikomori. The article analyzes such personal characteristics of hikikomori as escapism, the level of subjective alienation, self-attitude. Methodology. On the basis of a theoretical analysis and an empirical study on a sample of 272 people, some socio-psychological characteristics of hikikomori were clarified. The study involved young people aged 18 to 30, 68 of whom defined themselves as "hikikomori" and indicated that they have almost minimal contact with the outside world. The following methods were used: the author's adaptation of the screening method for determining hikikomori HQ-25 (А. Тео); Questionnaire for measuring the level of escapism severity (T.N. Savchenko, O.I. Teslavskaya, E.V. Belovol, A.A. Kardapoltseva); Alienation test by Maddi et al. (SAQ, adaptation for adolescence by E.N. Osin (Osin, 2011); Questionnaire for the study of self-attitude (S.R. Panteleev). A comparative analysis of data in two groups of subjects, as well as a correlation and regression analysis. Research implications. As a result of a comparative analysis of the experimental and control groups, it was noted that individuals with an acute form of social withdrawal (hikikomori) have pronounced characteristics such as general escapism, isolation, vegetativeness, impotence, nihilism, and a high level of alienation. In general, in the entire sample of young people, high scores were noted on the “problems of socialization” scale. Among the features of self-attitude among hikikomori, one can note dissatisfaction with their abilities, a feeling of weakness, doubts about the ability to command respect, as well as the belief that their personality causes disapproval and rejection in other people. In general, all indicators according to the Questionnaire for the study of self-attitude gravitate towards the negative pole. Research implications. The results of the study expand the understanding of the hikikomori phenomenon, which is increasingly being recorded among young people in Russia, and also open up the prospect of developing psychological practices focused on the psychological correction of non-adaptive personality traits of people prone to acute forms of self-isolation and escapism.
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Objective: Acute and/or severe social withdrawal behavior among youth was seen as a culture-bound psychiatric syndrome in Japan, but more youth social withdrawal cases in different countries have been discovered recently. However, due to the lack of a formal definition and diagnostic tool for youth social withdrawal, cross-cultural observational and intervention studies are limited. We aimed to consolidate existing knowledge in order to understand youth social withdrawal from diverse perspectives and suggest different interventions for different trajectories of youth social withdrawal. Method: This review examined the current available scientific information on youth social withdrawal in the academic databases: ProQuest, ScienceDirect, Web of Science and PubMed. We included quantitative and qualitative studies of socially withdrawn youths published in English and academic peer-reviewed journals. Results: We synthesized the information into the following categories: (1) definitions of youth social withdrawal, (2) developmental theories, (3) factors associated with youth social withdrawal and (4) interventions for socially withdrawn youths. Accordingly, there are diverse and controversial definitions for youth social withdrawal. Studies of youth social withdrawal are based on models that lead to quite different conclusions. Researchers with an attachment perspective view youth social withdrawal as a negative phenomenon, whereas those who adopt Erikson's developmental theory view it more positively as a process of seeking self-knowledge. Different interventions for socially withdrawn youths have been developed, mainly in Japan, but evidence-based practice is almost non-existent. Conclusion: We propose a theoretical framework that views youth social withdrawal as resulting from the interplay between psychological, social and behavioral factors. Future validation of the framework will help drive forward advances in theory and interventions for youth social withdrawal as an emerging issue in developed countries.
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Since 1960 demographic trends towards longer time in education and late age to enter into marriage and of parenthood have led to the rise of a new life stage at ages 18–29 years, now widely known as emerging adulthood in developmental psychology. In this review we present some of the demographics of emerging adulthood in high-income countries with respect to the prevalence of tertiary education and the timing of parenthood. We examine the characteristics of emerging adulthood in several regions (with a focus on mental health implications) including distinctive features of emerging adulthood in the USA, unemployment in Europe, and a shift towards greater individualism in Japan.
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While mainstream education has received ample attention from scholars of Japan, the diverse kinds of private institutions concerned with the rehabilitation of so-called 'problem youth' have not hitherto been subjected to systematic analysis. This article offers an in-depth study of two starkly contrasting organizations, the Totsuka Yacht School and K2 International. We focus on the rehabilitation philosophies of these groups and examine how they view 'problem youth'; the remedies they advocate; the critical incidents they have been implicated in; and how they have responded in their aftermath. These two organizations epitomize two important opposing paradigms of rehabilitation: one 'disciplinarian' and one 'accommodating', and therefore reflect different moral discourses regarding youth and the problems they face. Analysis of these groups illustrates how they are being challenged by current social and educational trends, but also how, as local actors, the charismatic leaders of these institutions also play a significant role in shaping the discourse. This study is among the first to map out the complex terrain of residential rehabilitative institutions in Japan. It also raises questions for educators regarding the meaning of 'non-formal' or 'alternative' education, helps youth specialists better understand the diversity of approaches employed in dealing with 'problem youth', and will be of interest to non-Japan scholars seeking evidence of approaches to rehabilitation which do not solely attempt to 'medicalize' youth as being 'ill' or to 'activate' them in order to return them to the labor market.
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The aim of this research is to transmit and comment on the authentic voices of socially withdrawn subjects and to contribute toward refining subjective inquiry in contemporary Japan. Here, I detail the cases of four individuals visiting Japanese Non Profit Organizations between August 2011 and August 2012. In accordance with my findings, I define socially withdrawn individuals as post-modern social renouncers. Hikikomori should not be reduced to a mental disorder but should be seen as an idiom of distress and a modality where one can recognize him/herself as a subject, or a mode of enjoyment. I suggest ways of improving qualitative methodology and directions for future research at the intersection of cultural history, anthropology, and subjectivity theory.
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Previous investigations have introduced the rise of clinical psychology and school counselling in Japan. In this article, I describe the spreading of psychological clinics in Japan by way of a school counselling system implemented to treat truant adolescents and their families. This investigation sheds light on the complex network of associations and certifications, along with details about contemporary Japanese clinicians, how they deal with institutional and patient-related difficulties, and how psychological clinics spread while counselling adolescents. One of the goals of this study is to discover a phenomenon that has never been mentioned in existing literature: Japanese high-school dropouts are abandoned by society. As a whole, I suggest that the overwhelming role that education plays in Japanese society might prevent an increasing number of students from being effective adolescents and delay the experience of adolescence until adulthood. Countermeasures to strengthen Japan’s student counselling system are proposed.
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The aim of this review is twofold: to review recent literature on personality disorders, published in 2013 and the first half of 2014; and to use recent theoretical work to argue for a contextually grounded approach to culture and personality disorder. Recent large-sample studies suggest that U.S. ethnoracial groups differ in personality disorder diagnostic rates, but also that minority groups are less likely to receive treatment for personality disorder. Most of these studies do not test explanations for these differences. However, two studies demonstrate that socioeconomic status partly explains group differences between African-Americans and European Americans. Several new studies test the psychometric properties of instruments relevant to personality disorder research in various non-Western samples. Ongoing theoretical work advocates much more attention to cultural context. Recent investigations of hikikomori, a Japanese social isolation syndrome with similarities to some aspects of personality disorder, are used to demonstrate approaches to contextually grounded personality disorder research. Studies of personality disorder must understand patients in sociocultural context considering the dynamic interactions between personality traits, developmental histories of adversity and current social context. Research examining these interactions can guide contextually grounded clinical work with patients with personality disorder.