EPIDEMIOLOGY AND CLINICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF SOCIAL ISOLATION(HIKIKOMORI) AND PROBLEMATIC INTERNET USE IN JAPAN

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Tomohiro Shirasaka1,2, Masaya Tayama2,4, Masaru Tateno2,3, Toshikazu Saito2,4

1Department of Psychiatry, Teine Keijinkai Hospital, Sapporo, Japan.
2Department of Neuropsychiatry School of Medicine Sapporo Medical University, Sapporo, Japan.
3Tokiwa Hospital, Sapporo, Japan.
4Miki mental clinic, Sapporo, Japan.

Purpose: The Internet was originally designed to facilitate communication and research activities. However, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of the Internet for education, entertainment, including video games.
problematic internet use and related behaviors have been attracting the attention of mental health researchers and clinicians, although this field is still in its infancy.
Social isolation (Hikikomori) has increasingly become a problem in Japan and has been hypothesized to be related to problematic internet use.
Particularly amongst students, problematic internet use may be a major factor of social withdrawal. We conducted a survey of internet addiction and social withdrawal among students for different purposes to examine this hypothesis.
Methods: Subjects were 864 high school students for 5 different cities from Japan. And divided into three group for different purposes (1: Online game, 2: Social networking service(SNS), 3: The others). To examine the relationship between internet addiction and social withdrawal, we administered the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and the UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS), a measure of social isolation, to all subjects.
Results: Online game group tended to score higher than SNS group on the IAT (Online game µ= 50.7, SNS µ = 44.9). And online game group tended to score higher on the ULS than SNS group (Online game µ=49.2, SNS µ =36.2). For online game users considered addictive internet users, we found a significant correlation between the ULS and the IAT (r=0.682, p<0.05), suggesting that social isolation and internet addiction are associated with each other. For SNS group who were not addictive internet users, we found a mild negative correlation between the ULS and the IAT (r=-0.265, p<0.05), suggesting that use of the internet for workers was not a compensatory behavior.
Conclusions: Based upon the IAT, we found that more online game group than SNS group reported problems with internet use. Based upon the ULS, more online game group reported feelings of loneliness than SNS group. SNS users’ loneliness did not appear to be related to their use of the internet, but amongst online game users with internet addiction, loneliness appeared to be associated with internet use.

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