Alone Again (Naturally)

In the United States, the percentage of people who say they don’t have close friends has increased fourfold since 1990. The share of Americans ages 25 to 54 who weren’t married or living with a romantic partner went up to 38% in 2019, from 29% in 1990. A record-high 25% of 40-year-old Americans have never married. More than half of all Americans say that no one knows them well.

In Japan, there is an estimated population of nearly 1.5 million young individuals who lead secluded and lonely lives, commonly referred to as hikikomori. These individuals often limit their outings to grocery shopping, while some go to the extent of confining themselves to their bedrooms.

The term “hikikomori” was initially coined in Japan during the 1980s. Authorities in the country have been increasingly concerned about this issue for the past decade, and the situation has worsened due to the impact of Covid.

In South Korea, approximately 3.1% of Koreans aged 19 to 39 fall into the category of “reclusive lonely young people.” This group is defined as individuals living in a confined space, disconnected from the outside world for an extended period, and facing noticeable difficulties in leading a normal life.

The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs estimates that this accounts for around 338,000 individuals across the country, with 40% of them beginning their isolation during adolescence. Various factors, such as financial hardship, mental health issues, family problems, or health challenges, contribute to this phenomenon.

To address the issue, Seoul has implemented the “Reclusive Youth Support Project,” which offers mental health counseling, hobby development, work training, and life coaching for isolated young individuals. In some cases, the South Korean government goes as far as offering financial incentives to reintegrate these socially disconnected youth back into society.

In April, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced a program in which isolated social recluses can receive up to 650,000/- Korean won (approximately US$500/-) per month. This financial support aims to assist these individuals in maintaining their psychological and emotional stability while fostering healthy growth and reintegration into society.

What’s with the strawberry generation?

People of my generation are made of sterner stuff.

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