Irish people are experiencing the highest levels of loneliness within the European Union, a recent study has revealed.
The study conducted by Alone, a national organization that enables older people to age at home, points out that in Ireland, more than 20 per cent of respondents reported feeling lonely most or all of the time, which is notably higher than the European average of 13 per cent.
Data provided by the same source also shows that the lowest levels of loneliness were found in Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and the Netherlands, all of which reported levels below ten per cent.
As of the first quarter of 2023, Alone’s figures indicate that many older people newly reaching out to the organization have been facing social isolation.
As a result, 36 per cent of these individuals had not engaged in social activities for more than a month, and a concerning nine per cent had not participated in social activities for over a year.
“The new numbers from this EU-wide survey do not come as a surprise to us ALONE. We know from our numbers that loneliness consistently ranks as Alone’s number one support issue, and it severely impacts our physical and mental health,” Alone CEO Seán Moynihan stated.
Moynihan also emphasised that the government had previously committed to developing an Action Plan to address loneliness through three distinct strategies:
- the Programme for Government
- the Roadmap for Social Inclusion
- the Healthy Ireland strategic plan for 2021-2025
At the same time, he stressed the urgency of the situation urging the Department of Health to allocate resources and expedite the development of the action plan to combat loneliness across all age groups.
According to him, it is essential to mention the provision of funds in the 2024 Budget to finally provide the long-awaited action plan and implement specialised interventions to address and alleviate loneliness in the community.
Moreover, Moynihan called on the Department of Health to collaborate with Alone and the members of the Loneliness Taskforce to address the challenge of loneliness comprehensively and effectively.
The issue of loneliness extends beyond the EU and is also prevalent in the United States. Thus, a survey conducted by Alone in November and December 2022 revealed that over 17 per cent of American adults reported feeling lonely.
Based on the survey, the highest levels of loneliness are observed among specific demographic groups. Young adults under 30 experience loneliness more, with 24 per cent feeling lonely. In addition, individuals from lower-income households earning less than $24,000 per year face a more significant burden of loneliness, with 27 per cent reporting similar feelings.