FEATURE: Japanese govt to conduct 1st survey on middle-aged social recluses

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The Cabinet Office plans to conduct a nationwide survey as early as November on hikikomori social recluses aged 40 to 64. It is the first study of its kind.

 The government defines hikikomori as a condition in which a person participates in no social activities, such as working or going to school, for at least six months. People with the condition withdraw from social life for extended periods and risk facing great difficulties as their parents age.
 The government plans to release the results of the survey by the end of the fiscal year ending in March, before drawing up measures to support middle-aged social recluses. 
 The survey will be distributed to 5,000 randomly selected people aged 40 to 64 and include questions related to people’s daily lives.
 Respondents that state that they rarely leave their own rooms or do not go outside except to visit nearby convenience stores will be classified as social recluses.
 The survey will include questions for individuals who have chosen to withdraw from society about when, why and for how long they have lived as recluses.
 The Cabinet Office conducted nationwide surveys on hikikomori in 2010 and 2015 using similar methods, based on the Law on Promotion of Development and Support for Children and Young People that went into effect in 2010. These surveys, however, covered only those aged 15 to 39, on the assumption that hikikomori is a condition specific to young people and usually caused by bullying or truancy. The estimated number of social recluses thus appeared to have decreased between the two surveys, from about 700,000 in 2010 to 540,000 five years later.
 However, a considerable number of social recluses aged 40 or older have been found to exist, mainly because more people have been withdrawing from social life for an extended period. For example, according to a survey conducted in 2017 by the Saga prefectural government, about 70 percent of 634 recluses were aged 40 or older. In another study conducted in 2015 by the Yamanashi prefectural government, the age group accounted for about 60 percent of 818 social recluses.
 As people who lack social connections grow older, it becomes harder for them to participate in society and find work. Another problem is that older recluses and their aging parents face the possibility of financial ruin when the latter can no longer work. This situation is called the “8050 issue,” referring to parents in their 80s with children in their 50s who are social recluses.


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