The prevalence and correlates of severe social withdrawal (hikikomori) in Hong Kong: A cross-sectional telephone-based survey study

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2015 Jun;61(4):330-42. doi: 10.1177/0020764014543711. Epub 2014 Jul 24.


Background: Severe social withdrawal behaviors among young people have been a subject of public and clinical concerns.

Aims: This study aimed to explore the prevalence of social withdrawal behaviors among young people aged 12-29 years in Hong Kong.

Methods: A cross-sectional telephone-based survey was conducted with 1,010 young individuals. Social withdrawal behaviors were measured with the proposed research diagnostic criteria for hikikomori and were categorized according to the (a) international proposed duration criterion (more than 6 months), (b) local proposed criterion (less than 6 months) and (c) with withdrawal behaviors but self-perceived as non-problematic. The correlates of social withdrawal among the three groups were examined using multinomial and ordinal logistic regression analyses.

Results: The prevalence rates of more than 6 months, less than 6 months and self-perceived non-problematic social withdrawal were 1.9%, 2.5% and 2.6%, respectively. In terms of the correlates, the internationally and locally defined socially withdrawn youths are similar, while the self-perceived non-problematic group is comparable to the comparison group.

Conclusions: The study finds that the prevalence of severe social withdrawal in Hong Kong is comparable to that in Japan. Both groups with withdrawal behaviors for more or less than 6 months share similar characteristics and are related to other contemporary youth issues, for example, compensated dating and self-injury behavior. The self-perceived non-problematic group appears to be a distinct group and the withdrawal behaviors of its members may be discretionary.

Keywords: Hong Kong; epidemiology; hikikomori; psychopathology; severe social withdrawal behavior; social communication; youth social issues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Social Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone
  • Young Adult