The risk of hikikomori, or extreme social isolation, during COVID-19 restrictions has been linked to use of the internet. A greater increase in internet use during the COVID-19 lockdown was associated with reduced risk of hikikomori, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Hikikomori is a state of marked social withdrawal in one's home, with a continuous duration of at least 6 months, resulting in significant functional impairment or distress. COVID-19 restrictions could constitute the first phase of hikikomori for those susceptible to the condition.
Jeff Gavin and Mark Brosnan, from University of Bath, found that, "An increase in internet use during lockdown was associated with reduced risk of hikikomori."
"Whether the benefits of using social media during COVID-19 lockdown to reduce hikikomori risk extend to a post-COVID society is a question for future research," concluded the authors.
Once considered unique to Japan, research now indicates that hikikomori is an international phenomenon in more collectivist as well as more individualist countries. This study, which included participants from 45 countries, highlights the positive impact social media use may have during isolation while also discovering an increased risk related to online gaming."
Brenda K. Wiederhold, Chief-Editor, PhD, MBA, BCB, BCN, Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, California and Virtual Reality Medical Institute, Brussels, Belgium
Lee, D. S., et al. (2022) Social Media Use and Its Link to Physical Health Indicators. Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking. doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2021.0188