1.46 Million Working-age People Socially Isolated

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — An estimated 1.46 million working-age people in Japan are living as “hikikomori” social recluses, a survey by the Cabinet Office showed Friday.

The figure accounts for some 2% of the total population of people aged between 15 and 64 in the country. Some 20% became social recluses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the survey.

A Cabinet Office official warned that hikikomori “could happen to anyone.”

The estimate was based on a survey conducted in November last year on 30,000 people aged between 10 and 69 across the country.

The survey found that 2.05% of people aged 15 to 39 go out only for their hobbies, leave their rooms but stay within their homes or rarely leave their rooms for at least six months. The share stood at 2.02% for people aged 40 to 64.

According to the survey, 21.5% of hikikomori recluses aged 15 to 39 have been socially isolated for six months to less than one year, and 21.9% of those aged 40 to 64 have been shut themselves in their homes for less than two to three years.

Asked why they became hikikomori, 20.8% of social recluses aged 15 to 39 said they had difficulty with interpersonal relations, followed by 18.1% who cited the pandemic.

As a trigger to start social retreat, 44.5% of hikikomori retreats aged 40 to 64 cited departure from employment, followed by 20.6% who cited the pandemic.

The Cabinet Office official pointed out that people could become socially isolated when they find it difficult to go out amid the pandemic and can take online classes and work from home.