AT’s work was supported in part by a Career Development Award from the Veterans Health Administration Health Service Research and Development (HSR&D; CDA 14-428). The US Department of Veterans Affairs had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication. The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of the US Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States government. We want to acknowledge the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology for the 2018 Fellowship Award granted to VPS and for its encouragement to work on international research studies on hikikomori. Ms Teresa Abrego and Ms Maite Muruzabal, from Tweetbinder, SA, collaborated significantly in the retrieval of tweets through their search engine. This work was partially supported by grants from the Fondo de Investigación de la Seguridad Social, Instituto de Salud Carlos III (PI18/01726), Spain, and the Programa de Actividades de I+D de la Comunidad de Madrid en Biomedicina (B2017/BMD-3804), Madrid, Spain.
Journal of Medical Internet Research
Online social networks -- Social aspects, Hikikomori -- Social aspects, Help-seeking behavior
Background: Hikikomori is a severe form of social withdrawal, originally described in Japan but recently reported in other countries. Debate exists as to what extent hikikomori is viewed as a problem outside of the Japanese context. Objective: We aimed to explore perceptions about hikikomori outside Japan by analyzing Western language content from the popular social media platform, Twitter. Methods: We conducted a mixed methods analysis of all publicly available tweets using the hashtag #hikikomori between February 1 and August 16, 2018, in 5 Western languages (Catalan, English, French, Italian, and Spanish). Tweets were first classified as to whether they described hikikomori as a problem or a nonproblematic phenomenon. Tweets regarding hikikomori as a problem were then subclassified in terms of the type of problem (medical, social, or anecdotal) they referred to, and we marked if they referenced scientific publications or the presence of hikikomori in countries other than Japan. We also examined measures of interest in content related to hikikomori, including retweets, likes, and associated hashtags. Results: A total of 1042 tweets used #hikikomori, and 656 (62.3%) were included in the content analysis. Most of the included tweets were written in English (44.20%) and Italian (34.16%), and a majority (56.70%) discussed hikikomori as a problem. Tweets referencing scientific publications (3.96%) and hikikomori as present in countries other than Japan (13.57%) were less common. Tweets mentioning hikikomori outside Japan were statistically more likely to be retweeted (P=.01) and liked (P=.01) than those not mentioning it, whereas tweets with explicit scientific references were statistically more retweeted (P=.01) but not liked (P=.10) than those without that reference. Retweet and like figures were not statistically significantly different among other categories and subcategories. The most associated hashtags included references to Japan, mental health, and the youth. Conclusions: Hikikomori is a repeated word in non-Japanese Western languages on Twitter, suggesting the presence of hikikomori in countries outside Japan. Most tweets treat hikikomori as a problem, but the ways they post about it are highly heterogeneous.
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Pereira-Sanchez, V., Alvarez-Mon, M. A., del Barco, A. A., Alvarez-Mon, M., & Teo, A. (2019). Exploring the Extent of the Hikikomori Phenomenon on Twitter: Mixed Methods Study of Western Language Tweets. Journal of medical Internet research, 21(5), e14167.