The European Parliament Pilot Project "Monitoring loneliness in Europe" was conducted by the Joint Research Centre in partnership with the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
The Pilot Project involved gathering data on loneliness across the EU, synthesising and enhancing existing evidence, and exchanging on best practices on intervention measures to combat loneliness. The results of the first EU-wide loneliness survey which was conducted in 2022 on more than 25.000 respondents, have now been published.
According to data, approximately 13% of respondents report feeling lonely most of the time or all of the time. Loneliness is not only a problem among the elderly. Young people have actually a higher incidence of loneliness compared to older generations.
The findings provide insights into the risk factors for loneliness. Favourable economic situations, as well as the quantity and quality of social interactions, are key when it comes to preventing loneliness, whereas major life events, such as the loss of a partner or a job, can disrupt one's social network and significantly raise the risk of loneliness.
According to data, people who are lonely all or most of the time are about 20 percentage points more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms. Similarly, loneliness is linked to poorer physical health outcomes and unhealthy behaviour. It is unclear though to what extent loneliness causes health problems or whether it is the other way around.
The survey shows that intense use of social networking sites is associated with an increase in loneliness, suggesting that social networking sites replace offline relationships with online ones, lacking the intimacy and quality of offline interactions.
Published: 07 June 2023