The impact of higher levels of autistic traits on risk of hikikomori (pathological social withdrawal) in young adults

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Abstract

Background Hikikomori is an extreme state of social withdrawal, originally identified in Japan but more recently recognised internationally. Many countries imposed restrictions during the COVID- 19 pandemic which may have had a detrimental impact on those at risk of hikikomori, specifically young adults and those with high levels of autistic traits. Aims To explore whether levels of autistic traits mediate the relationship between psychological wellbeing and hikikomori risk. We also looked at whether autistic traits mediated between lockdown experiences (e.g. not leaving the house) and hikikomori risk. Methods 646 young people (aged 16-24) from a wide range of countries completed an online questionnaire assessing psychological wellbeing, autistic traits and experiences of lockdown for this cross-sectional study. Results Autistic traits mediated the relationship between both psychological wellbeing and hikikomori risk, as well as frequency of leaving the house during lockdown and hikikomori risk. Greater hikikomori risk was associated with poor psychological wellbeing, higher autistic traits and leaving the house less frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conclusions These findings suggest similarities with Japanese hikikomori research and are consistent with suggestions that psychological wellbeing and COVID-19 restrictions are associated with increased hikikomori risk in young adults, and both associations are mediated by higher levels of autistic traits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0281833
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Data Availability Statement: ������PA @ ACCEPT
please confirm DOI is active������ We have placed
anonymised data in a digital repository: 10.6084/
m9.figshare.22016198.

Funding:
The authors received no specific funding for this work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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