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Arlin Cuncic

Japanese Hikikomori Lead Life of Seclusion

By January 23, 2011

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I was recently reading about a Japanese cultural phenomenon known as "hikikomori". Hikikomori means "withdrawal", and refers to a phenomenon in Japan in which individuals sequester themselves from the world for 6 months or longer (sometimes for decades). The term can be used both to describe the problem and the individual.

Hikikomori are usually male, adolescent or twenty-something, live with their parents, and rarely leave their rooms. Estimates of the problem in Japan range anywhere from 100,000 to 1 million people living this life of seclusion.

Experts have yet to pinpoint the cause of the problem. Possible contributing factors that have been identified include:

The impact of hikikomori on the country is not to be underestimated. The longer these youth spend in seclusion, the less likely it is that they will return to function in society. This places a heavy weight not only on the parents, but on healthcare and social assistance.

Interestingly, hikikomori is seen less often in poor families. Why? Because parents cannot afford to support their grown children while they live in their rooms. In a way, parents are enabling the condition.

What do you think? Are parents in Japan to blame for this phenomenon? Can mental health problems such as SAD be enabled?

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