Loneliness is not only a social issue, but also a health one, Source: Depositphotos

This is the loneliest country in the EU

This is the loneliest country in the EU

Other countries in the first European survey of this kind may also surprise you with their results

The European Commission initiated a survey at the end of last year to find out the level of loneliness in the EU in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The study was the first of its kind and seeks to find the underlying causes and spread of what’s widely considered to be a quiet epidemic that affects many different groups, such as the elderly. And, in a rapidly ageing continent like Europe, that matters significantly.

The rates of loneliness perception and feelings seem to differ widely across Europe, often with neighbouring countries being at the distant ends of the spectrum. Perhaps, it would come as a surprise for many to find out that Ireland is the country where the highest percentage of respondents reported feeling lonely – about 20 per cent.

Who knew that the country of pub culture, music and joyful ceilidh would also be the loneliest? Maybe, the rainy weather doesn’t help. But then again, sunny countries, such as Greece and Bulgaria are also among the top five loneliest societies, which shows that the reasons can be complex.

lonely eu

The rate of loneliness in the EU. Source: European Commission

The lowest levels of loneliness were observed in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Croatia, and Austria with less than 10 per cent of the surveyed sample. 

Loneliness is also a serious health issue

The survey was conducted in November and December 2022 and included more than 25,000 respondents aged 16 and older from all 27 European Union (EU) countries. Overall, 13% of respondents said they felt lonely most or all of the time over the past four weeks, whereas 35% reported experiencing loneliness at least some of the time.

Emotional loneliness was defined as the feeling of a lack of a meaningful relationship with a significant other or a close friend. Social loneliness refers to the experience of an insufficient broader social network, including friends, neighbours, or colleagues.

Loneliness can be bad not only for one’s mental health but also for physical well-being. Studies suggest that loneliness can put people at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and stroke and increase the risk of premature death.

The report states that loneliness is a problem that depends on a variety of factors – preventing it, as well. It can be a question of favourable economic conditions, quality and quantity of social interactions, family traditions and customs, social assistance and outreach.

A big obstacle to tackling loneliness is that it’s still something of a taboo to talk about or acknowledge in society. There’s also unawareness of the existence of help and prevention methods, with 57% of the respondents saying they did not know of any intervention policies and resources in their cities.



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