If you’ve ever been to Japan, you might notice the Japanese affinity for surgical masks.
Aside from hygienic purposes and to avoid pollen allergies during the to spring season, there are other reasons why a lot of Japanese people can’t leave the house without wearing their masks.
According to Strait Times, Japan’s “mask dependency” is a result of several factors:
A survey from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says that there are around 127 million Japanese who suffer from hay fever each year which is why mask production is a booming industry in the country.
Aside from producing pollen-blocking masks, Unicharm, the leading mask maker in Japan, developed one that could prevent the transmission of the cold virus.
“Our masks are fitted with filters that can keep out pollen, viruses or air polluting PM2.5 fine particulate matter, and are designed for a snug fit,” said Unicharm spokesperson Kikuo Tomioka.
For some women, masks serve as an easy way to go out and about without worrying about putting makeup on, especially on days when they feel less attractive.
It’s also being used by several matchmaking companies where participants are required to wear masks during speed dating. With this kind of approach, it would encourage participants to really get to know the person instead of making judgments based on looks.
In 2009, Yuzo Kikumoto, founder of the professional counselling service Kikiwell, coined the term “mask dependency” to address the attitudes of those who have grown comfortable of the anonymity the masks give them.
Kikumoto said that the percentage of “mask addicts” have increased overwhelmingly by 50% since 2009.
“While some people used to feel safe or secure when going out with a mask, it has reached a stage where they cannot go out without wearing a mask. That’s how serious it is getting,” said Kikumoto.
Sufferers are believed to be those who are insecure in public and those who have a great deal of inferiority. Masks serve as their “security blanket” and those who have this dependency struggle to talk to people without it.
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