Over 300,000 Amsterdammers feel alone; City commits €5 mil. to fight loneliness

Almost half of Amsterdam adults feel lonely to a greater or lesser extent, according to a study by municipal heath service GGD. That comes down to 300 thousand lonely people in the Dutch capital, of which 80 thousand of whom feel "severely lonely". The other 220 thousand say they are "moderately lonely."

Amsterdam is implementing the first set of measures to deal with this growing issue on June 1st, the city said in a statement. It will be a flexible approach using a continuous trial-and-error to see what methods for dealing with the situation work best, but it will first focus on identifying loneliness in people, notifying someone relevant to deal with it, and ultimately breaking the societal taboo around the issue. 

"There is no ready-made approach to combat loneliness," said healthcare alderman Eric van der Burg and social affairs alderman Arjan Vliegenthart in a joint release. "We will therefore use the next six months to investigate what is and is not working, so we can come up with a longer-term approach by 2018." The city will release a report in February to help determine a course of action through 2022.

According to professor Theo van Tilburg, a specialist on loneliness who is helping the municipality address the issue, the Dutch capital is a "magnet" for vulnerable people who often come to the city alone. The reason Amsterdam struggles more with loneliness than other large cities like Rotterdam, is because the city is home to many immigrants, expats and students, he told Parool. The city's aging population also plays a role, he said.

At the initiative of PvdA city councilor Maarten Poorter, Amsterdam is developing this urban approach to loneliness. The city made 1 million euros per year available for this response. But that is not enough, according to Poorter. "We need to do more to prevent loneliness", he said to the newspaper. The PvdA and GroenLinks therefore submitted a proposal to commit 5 million euros annually to the plan.