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A recent Cabinet Office estimate that there are some 613,000 people aged 40 to 64 who have shut themselves up at home without working or interacting with others outside of their family over an extended period confirms that the issue of hikikomori (recluse), which used to be deemed a problem mainly among adolescents and youths, has been spreading among the middle-aged population. One out of three such people are believed to be economically dependent on their aging parents, which poses a serious risk for their livelihood as they and their parents grow older. The government needs to scrutinize the data and take steps to provide support for their diverse needs.

The “8050 problem” — referring to hikikomori in their 50s living alone with parents who are in their 80s — has reportedly been widely discussed among people involved in welfare issues. There is a serious risk of the aging parents suffering illnesses and generally declining health, requiring medical or nursing care, or dying — leaving the recluses who have been dependent on them helpless on their own. In some households, it reportedly surfaces that the family had an adult hikikomori member only when the parent or parents became ill and needed help from the outside. Attention should be paid so that such families do not remain isolated from the rest of society — and that they receive support before their problems become serious.

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