Experts have warned that there is a growing culture among teenagers in Japan to hide their faces behind white medical masks.
The disposable facemasks are a favourite among Japanese commuters and office workers, who wear them to help prevent the spreading of flu germs, especially during the winter.
AdvertisementBut now teenagers are seen wearing the cotton masks, some from the moment they awake until they go to bed, sparking concerns that they are using them in order to retreat from society.
Yohei Harada, an analyst specialising in youth trends at Hakuhodo Inc, the advertising agency, said there is an increase in the number of wearers.
"A few years ago, very few teenagers wore masks. But many wear them today and the numbers are increasingly very rapidly," the Telegraph quoted Harada as saying.
"The reason is that these teenagers are looking for something to hide behind.
"They are constantly having to communicate with friends via SMS and emails and this is making them so tired that it is a relief to wear a masks. It is a way to hide their feelings," Harada stated.
The climate of political flux, economic instability and the absence of jobs for life in Japan are further factors believed to be fuelling social insecurities among teenagers.