Loneliness is not a new concept. It is something that occurs in our nature, but since the start of the pandemic, the numbers around loneliness have risen sharply. According to the RIVM, 60% of people regularly feel lonely. Philosopher Marjan Slob says that people have a talent for loneliness, but that it is very difficult to measure objectively. It feels different for everyone.
Being Alone Is Not Loneliness
While some people claim that being alone is the same as being lonely, it is not. Health scientist Maaike Verhagen explains that loneliness is often not a choice while being alone is.
Being alone can also be positive. This gives you the space to be creative and you have time for self-reflection. This helps us to develop and to spend more time on ourselves. The moment you are no longer alone by choice, you become lonely.
Professor Jenny de Jong-Gierveld has made a definition for ‘An Against Loneliness’:
Loneliness is not a fixed definition, however. Several types can be defined. For example, you have social loneliness, where you miss social contact with friends, colleagues, or family members. You also have emotional loneliness, where you may have social contact, but lack an intimate connection, such as a bond with a partner.
Loneliness feels different to everyone, which makes it difficult to gauge it. One needs little social contact to have a fulfilled social bond, while the other needs to see others daily.
Need More Attention
Prolonged loneliness is very bad for your health, Verhagen points out. It can lead to mental complaints, such as depression or anxiety disorders. It can be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Maaike Verhagen believes that loneliness should not be such a taboo. When it’s easier to talk about it (thanks to online therapies, for example ), the barrier to seeking help when needed becomes lower. Everyone gets lonely sometimes, so it’s not that crazy to want to talk about it. Opening the conversation about loneliness also helps to identify the different manifestations and forms of this. Then more suitable solutions can be developed.
Last year, the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport devoted a lot of attention to the “An Against Loneliness” initiative. This is a campaign in which people can work against loneliness to give lonely people social contact again. People who feel lonely can be helped by people who want to fight loneliness. It shows how social we are as human beings.