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Survey reveals that many young people in Japan are experiencing loneliness and isolation

16 Comments
By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

One consequence of the pandemic that was completely unrelated to the virus itself was the feeling of isolation produced by quarantining. Working from home, avoiding large crowds, and keeping vulnerable family members safe by staying home resulted in a lot of loneliness and stress that no one knew how to combat. And though many of the social distancing requirements have been lifted now, things still haven’t quite gone back to “normal” for a lot of people, and that loneliness hasn’t quite subsided.

That snapshot of society has been gleaned from the results of a government survey investigating the state of loneliness and isolation of people in Japan, which was conducted between December and January. The responses of 11,867 men and women aged 16 and up from around the country revealed that many people in Japan frequently or always feel isolated these days, especially young people.

The survey asked participants, “How often do you feel like you are lonely?”, giving them the option of answering “Never”, “Almost Never”, “Rarely”, “Sometimes”, and “Frequently or Always”. As much as 4.5 percent of respondents answered, “Frequently or Always”, with another 14.5 percent answering “Sometimes”, indicating that an unsettling amount of people still feel loneliness and isolation.

However, people in their 20s and 30s were the group most likely to feel lonely. 7.9 percent of people in their 30s and 7.7 percent of people in their 20s answered: “Frequently or Always.” By comparison, the older the participants became, the lower the percentage of those who reported frequently feeling lonely: 5.6 percent of people in their 40s, 4.9 percent of those in their 50s, 3.3 percent in their 60s, and 1.8 percent of those in their 70s reported frequent or regular loneliness.

The frequency of lonely feelings appeared to be spread nearly equally between men and women when looking at the population as a whole. 4.9 percent of men and 4.1 percent of women reported regular loneliness. However, among people in their 20s and 30s, more men than women seemed to be lonely (8.1 and 8.3 percent for men, respectively, compared to 6.2 and 7.3 percent of women). As you might expect, those who were single or divorced and living alone reported the most feelings of loneliness.

Many of the respondents who reported frequent loneliness were also those who were currently unemployed or in temporary employment, and many reported that their physical and mental health was poor. Household income also seemed to be a factor in the frequency of loneliness, as low-income individuals tended to feel lonely more frequently.

The survey also asked participants to rate their level of interaction with others, and a high proportion of respondents reported very little interaction, both directly and through communication tools. Of those who live separately from friends and family, 11.7 percent said that they have no direct communication with them at all. This has obviously been worsened by the pandemic. 67.6 percent said that the frequency with which they directly interact and communicate with people has decreased.

The results are somewhat surprising because loneliness and isolation are often thought to be problems primarily concerning the elderly, but according to the results of this survey, that appears not to be the case. Unfortunately, this doesn’t paint a promising picture, because although suicide rates decreased somewhat at the beginning of the pandemic, suicide is still the leading cause of death among young people in Japan, and loneliness is sure to be a major factor. We can only hope that the pandemic hasn’t resulted in permanent isolation among younger people, and that, as things improve, more and more will begin to search for and make those connections again.

If you or someone you know in Japan are having suicidal thoughts, you can get help. Click here for more info.

Source: Cabinet Secretariat via Mainichi Shimbun via Otacom

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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-- Nearly half of young Japanese women say they “hate” the company they work for in survey

-- [Survey shows that many Japanese business people’s sleep patterns have changed since teleworking](Survey shows that many Japanese business people’s sleep patterns have changed since teleworking)

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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The results are somewhat surprising 

No they are not.

People in Japan is raised to be isolated. Since they are small kids the contact with other people is reduced to the minimum; school, juku, and pretty much that. There are barely any populous family gatherings and many kids don't meet other kids to play with, since many parents hide at home and barely go to the park and avoid to interact with other parents/kids. So, at the time when they are 20 and go to the university a percentage of them has no friends nor the ability to interact with people.

4 ( +13 / -9 )

I @koiwaicoffee totally agree.

It is very hard to make friends, from my experience, living in rural Japan. Maybe it would be easier if we lived in a city?

I've been in Japan for 6 years now and have only made a handful of friends, most have left the countryside; moved back to the city, or their home countries.

Even my wife lamented how hard it is to make friends with Japanese people. Everyone seems too busy.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Related links...

-- One in four young people in Japan’s biggest cities thinking of moving to the countryside【Survey】

LOL I do not recommend it, unless seeking deeper isolation. The country side is nice to visit.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It’s really hard to make REAL friends in Japan (urban or rural) been here for 10 years and counting…If you don’t like what the majority likes you’ll be the target for you know what. You should learn to sugarcoat everything here and not keep the truth to yourself.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

Jappy14

It’s really hard to make REAL friends in Japan (urban or rural) been here for 10 years and counting…If you don’t like what the majority likes you’ll be the target for you know what. You should learn to sugarcoat everything here and not keep the truth to yourself.

I can see why you have difficulty making friends in Japan - stereotyping.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

I lived in Japan, in different cities and for different lengths of time, for a total of more than 12 years. Fluency in Japanese with considerable knowledge of history, politics, and culture, did nothing to help me make true friends. I understand loneliness and isolation well.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

That’s not true at all. No one is really lonely or isolated in a country with this high population density. With only a very small first active step by yourself you can easily end your own felt ‘loneliness’ or ‘isolation’. Put your game controller away, switch off your TV and lock your door from outside and done. Then ride a bus, subway and your loneliness abruptly ends, visit regularly some places you like, go to favorite restaurants, izakaya or bars and everything gets well. Of course it’s a bit different if you don’t have the money for that, but still not impossible if you save costs on other items. When it comes to friends or real friendships the situation is very much more complicated, because the lifestyle in general contradicts it, promoting many job rotations, quick changes in living , working or studying places every few years and the many movings for better career opportunities from rural areas to bigger cities or the company orders to move to other cities’ branches and all that. That’s more a general problem affecting all equally, so you have again to become active yourself and fix yourself to the place with your friends at the cost of saying goodbye to chances at new places but then without your old or less new friends.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

I remember 4 or 5 years ago walking into uni classes to be met by total silence as everyone had their heads down firmly engrossed in their smartphones. In my experience, 18-20 year olds lack the sufficient social skills needed to interact normally with the world around them.

Of course they have their own little friendship groups, but remove that security blanket and the majority of kids I meet year after year (hundreds of them) just cannot interact normally with their peers even in their own language - without it being extremely uncomfortable and awkward.

I'm not surprised in the least about these survey results. Masks were always a convenient barrier for the unsociable student, many more students will have realised this now and will keep them on even when the time comes to start taking them off.

I don't know how Japan gets out of this funk, because an education system which generally stifles independence and personality + smartphones + masks + online learning preventing kids from mixing + online learning requiring more use of smart devices etc etc isn't a recipe for kids growing up with independence, self confidence, and good social skills.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

The Japanese are worried about bothering others all the time. It's very difficult for us to initiate any actions. Visiting friends, calling them, joining social groups, planning fun activities, volunteering, taking lessons, and other positive social interactions cannot be done without worrying about how others would respond. Perfectionism and fear for failure controls our lives. Lack of multitasking skills contributes this problem. No one is perfect. All we have to do is to start something. Once we jump in and swim, we can do anything. We will begin enjoying our ability to learn new things.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Junko...

The Japanese are worried about bothering others all the time. It's very difficult for us to initiate any actions. Visiting friends, calling them, joining social groups, planning fun activities, volunteering, taking lessons, and other positive social interactions cannot be done without worrying about how others would respond.

I've long thought that many Japanese live their life in fear of upsetting others. Well, a little exaggerated maybe but basically true.

Japanese girls are more likely to have friends, Japanese boys have teammates and classmates then co-workers. Rarely do they have what I would call "real friends".

Plus putting the cell phones down and talking to each other wouldn't be a bad idea.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I'm not at all surprised by the results, other than the numbers are likely a conservative UNDERestimate. I say this from my own personal experience. I also often feel lonely, and I don't live alone.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

THOMAS R MOUNTCASTLET

I lived in Japan, in different cities and for different lengths of time, for a total of more than 12 years. Fluency in Japanese with considerable knowledge of history, politics, and culture, did nothing to help me make true friends.

Friendship requires personal encounters and personal encounters only, not anthropological observations.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I only have two male Japanese friends, after 2+ decades in Japan. Our cultural differences make it hard to be true friends. I have plenty of people I'm friendly with, acquaintances, but only the two friends. My other friends are also non-Japanese.

Talking with people here in Canada though, this is pretty common for older men. It's really hard for men to make friends in old age, even in their own culture. Throw in the cross-culture into it, and it makes it much harder. Especially as I'm not into conversations on how well I use chopsticks.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Having lived in Okinawa for almost 10 years, I found the people generally more sociable and accepting of those that are not Okinawan. Had many friends while there. I wonder if it's like this in Hokkaido?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

You either have friends or you don't.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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