Living Alone in Japan: Social Interactions and Heart Rate Variability
Living alone in Japan: Social interactions and heart rate variability
Kimberly Suzanne BOWEN, Associate Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Yukiko Uchida, Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Masataka Nakayama, Assistant Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Hiromi Segawa, Research Fellow, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Globally, the number of single-person households has increased dramatically in the last 50 years (Klinenberg, 2013). In Japan, 34% of the population lives alone and this percentage continues to increase (Japan NIPSSR, 2015). In Western countries, empirical research has generally debunked the popular lay hypothesis that the boom in living alone would erode social capital, creating an epidemic of loneliness. However, Japan’s cultural background is distinct from the culture of Western counterparts exhibiting similar trajectories in living alone. These cultural differences – historical multigenerational household norms, interdependent selfhoods, more stable social networks, and collective values – may uniquely influence the ties between living alone and health in Japan (Markus & Kitayama, 2010). This research examines whether living alone in Japan is associated with differences in daily health habits (e.g. sleep) and social interactions, and whether these differences are associated with differences in well-being and heart rate variability, a prospective risk factor for both mental and physical illness, by collecting data from daily life diaries and heart rate variability monitors.