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Nearly 40% of Yokohama's 'hikikomori' recluses stopped going out due to COVID: survey

Yokohama City Hall (Mainichi/Junya Higuchi)

YOKOHAMA -- An estimated 20,000 people between 40 and 64 in Yokohama, who have no illness or disability, have mostly stopped going out for at least six months, according to a survey by the city government.

    In the survey, nearly 40% of those residents who are in a state of "hikikomori," or social reclusion, said their condition began when they started avoiding leaving home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    In the previous survey in 2017, approximately 12,000 middle-aged and older residents were categorized as hikikomori. The Yokohama Municipal Government says the increase is attributable to the inclusion of those doing housework and childcare, who were not covered in the previous survey.

    The city ran a July 2022 survey targeting 3,0000 middle-aged and older residents, and received responses from 1,435 people. Of these, 22 people, or 1.5%, were in a state of hikikomori. About half of these said they've been withdrawn from society for between one year and less than three years. Asked what triggered them to shut in, the most common answer was when they started refraining from going out due to the COVID-19 pandemic at 36%, followed by "low energy" at 27% and "job loss or retirement" at 23%.

    The municipal government launched a "hikikomori support division" in April 2022 and plans to provide care for social recluses through hotlines. However, some 60% of those considered hikikomori said in the survey that they didn't want to consult with public institutions, with reasons including, "I wouldn't be able to articulate my feelings to the other person," and, "I'm worried what they'll ask me."

    A city official commented, "We've learned that there is a psychological hurdle for people to use public consulting programs. Going forward, we'll work on actively sending out information about our support systems."

    (Japanese original by Nao Ikeda, Yokohama Bureau)

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