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The first statistical data on the hikikomori phenomenon in Italy


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In the book “Hikikomori, the young people who don’t leave the house” I analyze the phenomenon of social isolation in youths starting from the main scientific research published up to this point and integrating it with what is my direct observed experience developed over the last seven years of study.

At the end of the article I also present the results of the absolute first statistical survey on the subject on a national level, which involved 288 mothers and fathers of the Hikikomori ItaliaParents ONLUS Association, and from which emerged some extremely valuable data to be able to better define the nature of the issue.


Here are some of the more interesting statistics.


87.85% of the selected sample has a socially isolated male child. Despite such data confirming what emerged from Japanese surveys regarding the prevalence of male hikikomori, the gender imbalance seems excessive, both with respect to the Japanese data (that talk of 63.3% of young males), and with in regards to my direct experience.

I have, in fact, reason to believe that female hikikomori represent a sensibly greater number than what emerged from the research and the reason is to be found, with all probability, in the different level of level of alertness that is culturally enacted when males are socially isolated rather than females.


The length of isolation has been confirmed to be usually prolonged: most male children children, in fact, appears to have been in isolation for over three years, with an average age of around 20 years old. This piece of data is unfortunately destined to grow in the near future since the hikikomori represents a problem with greatrisk of chronicization. In fact, in Japan, where this phenomenon erupted far earlier than in Italy, thenumber of isolated subjects over 40 years old is sensibly higher than inour country.

Particularly of note is the piece of data relative to the onset of the issue: the average age at which the first signs of hikikomori start to show is around 15 years old, which goes to show that the absolutely the most delicate period is the one which marks the shift from middle-school over to high-school.

Here, though, is where the first discrepancy emerges in relation to the Japanese data. In fact, in Japan, the most critical period doesn’t seem to be the one equivalent to middle-school, but rather the one situate post diploma, with 42.9% of people starting their withdrawal between 20 and 29 years old. The reason is probably linked to the highly competitive university system, where failing an admission test is often a determining factor in the start of the isolation.


The interpretation of the phenomenon contained in the book thinks of the hikikomori not as a rigid personal state, but rather as a condition that can have varying degrees of intensity and gravity (I wrote about it at length in this post).

Most of the sample involves subjects in the 2° stage, that is to say when the drive towards social isolation has already been rationally interpreted by the subject and they have established a valid reason for the choice of their withdrawal. This is the phase in which school is completely abandoned and almost all direct social contact is pushed away, with the exception of the closest relatives.

The third stage, which represents total isolation, that is to say when parents and virtual relationships are also avoided, is the rarest and affects only 6.69% of the studied sample. Those who find themselves in this condition have truly developed some type of psychopathology associated with their isolation.


Conclusion


The data that emerged from the survey open numerous avenues of reflection and allow a first quantitative analysis of the phenomenon. In this article only a small portion of it was presented with respect to what is contained in the book. The most interesting ones regard geographic distribution, the relationship with new technologies, and that with the parents.

Moreover, a second study is presented in the text where the questionnaire was administered directly to 89 subjects in a condition of social isolation. Most of the results are comparable to the ones in the main survey but there are also come contradictions, such as, for example, the predisposition to receive help as reported by the parents compared to that manifested by their children.



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