Severe Social Withdrawal: Cultural Variation in Past Hikikomori Experiences of University Students in Nigeria, Singapore, and the United States

Julie C. Bowker, Matthew H. Bowker, Jonathan B. Santo, Adesola Adebusola Ojo, Rebecca G. Etkin, Radhi Raja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Hikikomori (social withdrawal that lasts six months or longer) is a growing problem among Japanese adolescents and young adults, with recent estimates that approximately 1% of Japanese youths will suffer from an episode of hikikomori in their lifetimes. What remains unclear is whether hikikomori is a culture-bound syndrome or a condition impacting youths around the globe. Hence, the self-reported prevalence and psychosocial correlates of past experiences with hikikomori were examined in cross-sectional samples of university students from Singapore (n = 147), Nigeria (n = 151), and the United States (n = 301). Following tests of measurement invariance, comparisons showed that past experiences with hikikomori were related to elevated levels of current loneliness and depressive symptoms in each sample. However, analyses also revealed evidence of cultural variation in both the prevalence and the psychosocial correlates associated with past experiences of hikikomori, which taken together, provide preliminary evidence that the culture-bound characterization of hikikomori may not be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-230
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Genetic Psychology
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Social withdrawal
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • hikikomori
  • loneliness
  • university students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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