Greeks, along with other southern Europeans, feel lonelier and are more socially isolated than Western and Northern Europeans, according to a recent study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission.
These surprising results came to light as JRC researchers analyzed the incidence and the determinants of loneliness across Europe as part of a multi-year research project to analyze different aspects of social fairness.
Lonely people are often stigmatized. They are also more likely to have poor health and poor cognitive performance, as well as mental problems and pessimistic views. They even feel more easily threatened in situations which occur as part of daily life.
Loneliness is associated with a mortality risk which is equivalent to that of obesity and the habit of smoking.
JRC researchers looked at two indicators, one of them based on subjective feelings of loneliness. This measures the amount of “lonely individuals,” i.e. those who report feeling lonely.
The second indicator is based on specific, objective determinants of loneliness such as the frequency of meetings with friends. This measures the number of “socially-isolated individuals,” i.e. those who meet with friends, relatives or work colleagues (outside work) only once per month or less.
According to this analysis, approximately 30 million European adults, or seven percent of the population, frequently feel lonely.
This number goes up to ten percent in the nations of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, France, and Greece.
The lowest share of people who feel lonely is found in the Netherlands and Denmark, with three percent, Finland, which had four percent, and then the nations of Germany, Ireland and Sweden, with five percent.
The analysis shows that many more adults in Europe (18 percent or around 75 million people) are in reality just socially isolated, as opposed to being or feeling lonely. Differences between countries are also much larger in this area than for subjective loneliness.
Over 40 percent of Hungarians and Greeks only socialize with friends or family once a month, or even less. In Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland the corresponding figure approaches 35 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, social isolation is lowest in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, where approximately eight percent of adults meet with friends or family only once per month or less.