The Japanese government has published research suggesting 80% of the nation’s hikikomori may be mentally ill, with two thirds of those diagnosed having such serious conditions as schizophrenia or mental retardation.
A research group from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare cooperated with psychiatrists working at 5 mental health treatment centres over several years. They examined hikikomori cases involving subjects aged 16-35 who approached the centre for assistance.
Approximately 80% of the cases resulted in a firm diagnosis, and of those a third involved mental conditions such as schizophrenia or anxiety disorder, all of which were considered to require medication.
A further third involved mental retardation and developmental disorders.
The remaining third were considered to have generic “personality defects” or “maladjustment,” and were prescribed treatment centred on counseling.
Researchers guess there may be as many as 260,000 child hikikomori in Japan, and are urging that they receive attention from mental health professionals lest they develop into lifetime hikikomori.
The wider implications of even conducting such research suggest the government may be interested in addressing its inconvenient hikikomori problem by redefining what has traditionally been seen as a social phenomenon as a medical condition, an approach which could perhaps eventually culminate in involuntary treatment for hikikomori.