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‘Hikikomori Syndrome’: Lockdown Depression Spike Prompts Fears of Long-Term Damage to EU Youth

A spike in depression caused by EU lockdown rules has prompted serious mental health concerns for young people within the bloc.

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

Numerous officials across the continent have previously sounded alarm bells regarding the long-term impact draconian anti-coronavirus measures would have on children, with ministers in Germany finding that as many as three in four under 18s are now struggling with some sort of psychological issue.

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

Associated with Japan, “hikikomori” are described as people — mostly teenagers and young adults — who go into self-imposed isolation, refusing to leave their homes to attend work, school, or social events.

“Hikikomori, a Japanese term that literally means ‘being 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 one recent study found that tens of thousands of young people in Italy alone now suffer from the social syndrome, with tens of thousands more in the country judged as being at risk.

Responding to the MEP, the Commission confirmed that it was concerned by the long-term effects of lockdown in “breaking down the ties binding to family, friends or schoolmates”, and though it would not be conducting a study into European hikikomori specifically, it is nevertheless working on what it called a “comprehensive, prevention-oriented approach to mental health”.

“In line with all EU health policymaking, the focus of this new mental health initiative (which is planned in the form of a Commission Communication), is on supporting people in vulnerable circumstances,” Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides remarked, adding that the project will look at “improving access to prevention, treatment and care, including for children and young people”.

The issue of young people becoming Japanese-style shut-ins is not the only problem facing the EU in the post-pandemic era, however, with much younger children seemingly being impacted heavily by the effects of lockdown.

Young people in Germany in particular appear to be badly affected, with government and private sources both suggesting that the country’s youngest have suffered badly as a result of hardcore COVID-19 restrictions, both in terms of their academic ability and mental health.

A recent worldwide study into the reading ability of children found that as many as one in four German fourth graders are incapable of reading at the minimum level expected for their age, a sizable jump on pre-pandemic figures.

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