Peak of lockdown depression sparks fears among ‘Hikikomori’ for EU youth

A spike in depression caused by EU lockdown rules has sparked serious mental health issues among young people in the bloc.

EU politicians are beginning to fear for the long-term prospects of young people within the bloc, with the lockdown in particular being cited as causing a spike in depression among children and young adults.

Many officials across the continent have already sounded the alarm about the long-term impact draconian anti-coronavirus measures would have on children, with German ministers finding that up to three in four under-18s years are now struggling with some kind of psychological problem.

In a written question submitted to the European Commission, Christian Democrat MEP Isabella Adinolfi has now expressed concern about the growth of the “hikikomori” syndrome within the bloc.

Associated with Japan, “hikikomori” are described as people – mostly teenagers and young adults – who isolate themselves, refusing to leave their homes to go to work, school or social events.

“Hikikomori, a Japanese term that literally means ‘to be confined’, is used to describe young people who refuse to leave home, go to school or see their friends, only maintaining relationships via the web” , she wrote.

Adinolfi went on to express concern that a recent study found that tens of thousands of young people in Italy alone now suffer from social syndrome, and that tens of thousands more across the country are deemed to be at risk.

Responding to the MEP, the Commission confirmed that it was concerned about the long-term effects of the lockdown on the “severance of ties between family, friends or classmates”, and although it would not conduct any study on European hikikomori specifically, she nevertheless works on what she calls a “comprehensive and preventive approach to mental health”.

“In line with all EU health policies, the aim of this new mental health initiative (which is planned as a Commission communication) is to support people in vulnerable situations” , noted Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, adding that the project seeks to “improve access to prevention, treatment and care, including for children and young people”.

However, the issue of young people becoming Japanese-style inmates is not the only issue facing the EU in the post-pandemic era, with much younger children appearing to be heavily affected by the effects of the lockdown.

Young people in Germany in particular appear to be hit hard, with government and private sources both suggesting that the country’s youngest have suffered greatly from the severe COVID-19 restrictions, both in terms of academic ability and mental health.

A recent global study of children’s reading ability found that up to one in four German fourth-grade pupils are unable to read at the minimum level expected for their age, a considerable jump from pre-pandemic figures.

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