Characteristics of the average hikikomori: male, sensitive and negative towards society


The hikikomori is a particularly complex and varied phenomenon, that can potentially affect everyone, regardless of sex, age, or social extraction. At the same time, however, it’s undoubtable that there are some characteristics that recur more frequently than others.

In this post we’ll try to understand what they are and why they represent some risk factors.

Losing You - LY


According to Japanese data the hikikomori would be 90% male. In Italy, this proportion seems a lot less distinct, with a percentage of women much greater than 10%. The fact remains, however, that even in our country young and adult people in voluntary social isolation are for the most part men. What causes this imbalance?

One hypothesis is that the pressure for social realization, that is to say the root cause of hikikomori, is culturally greater for men. In other words, this means that on average there are greater expectations for male children on behalf of their family, school, their peers, or society in general.

Another hypothesis is that the number of female hikikomori is gravely underestimated in as much as, culturally, a woman who spends a lot of time in in the house is seen with less apprehension by the family than a man would.

If so were true it would mean that this gender gap is set to be reduced in the coming years, paralleling the improvement of the social position of women on our society.

Only child

Another risk factor seems to be not having brothers or sisters, as well as being able to have a single bedroom to themselves. Not only because they increase the moments of solitude within the home, but especially because parents generally have greater expectations of single children and therefore, consequently, impose greater pressure.

In fact it isn’t by chance that the explosion of the hikikomori phenomenon coincided, both in Italy and in Japan, with a drastic decrease in birth-rates and with an exponential increase in single-child families.

Single parent family

The Japanese experience tells us that in families with hikikomori children there is often either a weak or absent father-figure, both physically and emotionally, This would cause an imbalance of the parental relationship to weigh more heavily on the mother’s shoulders who will in turn develop a relationship of dependency with the child, whose social autonomy will be inevitably compromised.

In Italy such aspects, although present, seem less central. I have in any case noticed an elevated number of single-parent or divorced families. Two factors that certainly favour that previously mentioned imbalance.

Adolescent or young adult

In Italy, most hikikomori are between 14 and 25 years old. In Japan, however, the average age is a lot older and there are many recluses over 40, who started their own isolation during adolescence and have perpetrated it for tens of years. They belong to what is defined as “the first generation of hikikomori”, very much ignored and overlooked by the Japanese government.

In our country (Italy) the phenomenon is still in it’s initial phase. Over the coming years the average age of people in voluntary social isolation will increase here as well. We can, however, treasure the Japanese experience and avoid making their same mistakes. We must work on prevention and making sure that the hikikomori’s withdrawal doesn’t become chronic and enter the “third stage”, that is to say total isolation.

Sensitive and introspective

The hikikomori don’t have any cognitive deficit, on the contrary, they are often very brilliant young men and women. Their acute critical, insightful, and introspective nature becomes, however, a double-edged sword that makes them particularly awkward, fragile, and anxious in social relations.

It isn’t rare to find a very strong narcissistic element in them, fed by other people’s expectations and wounded by a reality that manifests differently than the idealized one.

Negative towards society

The difficulty in establishing satisfying relations with others, intellectual maturity that feeds a sensation of incompatibility with one’s peers and being different, added to a strong critical spirit, contribute to creating mistrust, negativity and disinterest towards interpersonal relations.

Such negativity then becomes generalized from the micro context (school, family, peer group, etc.) to the macro context, that is to say all social relations and society in its entirety, even turning, sometimes, into cynicism and disdain.


I’d like to point out, again, that all the above-mentioned characteristics musn’t be interpreted in an exclusive way, as fixed and ever present. Many cases of hikikomori exist that fit into only some of these cases, sometimes in none of them.

These are recurring factors, the statistical impact of which has yet to be verified.

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