Loneliness and Single-Person Households: Issues of Kodokushi and Hikikomori in Japan

  • Takahiro A. Kato
  • Naotaka Shinfuku
  • Norman Sartorius
  • Shigenobu Kanba
Reference work entry
Part of the Mental Health and Illness Worldwide book series (MHIW)


Traditionally, Japanese life used to be based on village communities and was a society that highly valued neighborhood relations, but in modern urban life, it is becoming increasingly difficult to establish and maintain close human connections, especially in the city. This creates a situation in which people are likely to become lonely. In other words, people who had hitherto lived in traditional family groupings and communities have increasingly come to spend more time as lone individuals with many actually living alone in the city. Some people living in single-person households in the city tend to feel loneliness, and sometimes this develops into a variety of mental health and psychiatric illnesses based on loneliness. In this chapter, we introduce issues pertaining to single-person households in Japan, especially focusing on kodoku-shi (lonely death) and hikikomori (social withdrawal). Regarding hikikomori, we discuss its psychopathology and propose a stage- and/or condition- oriented therapeutic approach. These issues related to urban single-person households are not merely Japanese or one nation issues but are in fact increasingly global phenomena and as such require breakthrough measures based on worldwide research.


Loneliness Isolation Kodoku-shi (lonely death) Hikikomori Amae Shame 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takahiro A. Kato
    • 1
  • Naotaka Shinfuku
    • 2
  • Norman Sartorius
    • 3
  • Shigenobu Kanba
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neuropsychiatry, Graduate School of Medical SciencesKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Social Welfare, School of Human SciencesSeinan Gakuin UniversityFukuokaJapan
  3. 3.Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes (AMH)GenevaSwitzerland

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