Over a million Dutch are very lonely

More than a million people in the Netherlands feel very lonely. A third of Dutch feel moderately lonely, the Telegraaf reported on Thursday - the start of the Week Against Loneliness. From Thursday until October 1st, a large number of civil society organizations are organizing events to show how to combat loneliness, according to the newspaper.

Loneliness is not bound to age or gender, despite about 78 percent of the Dutch population believing that loneliness occurs mainly among the elderly. According to the newspaper, figures indicate that loneliness is about equally common among women and men, 9 percent and 8 percent respectively. The percentage of lonely people between the age of 60 and 74 years is also about the same as the percentage among people between the ages of 18 and 59 years. 

There are specific groups in society that experience loneliness more often. Almost 60 percent of divorced people and widows or widowers feel lonely. Extreme loneliness is more common among divorced people, 20 percent, than widows and widowers, 16 percent. Loneliness is also more common among the oldest people in the population - people over the age of 75. This population group suffers from all sorts of circumstances that contribute to loneliness, such as a partner's death or physical or mental limitations.

There are different types of loneliness, social- and emotional loneliness being the main types. Emotional loneliness is when someone misses an intimate bond with someone else. Social loneliness is the lack of social contact - missing friends or colleagues. When someone has few or no contacts, that is social isolation. This is not the same as loneliness - social isolation is a situation, loneliness is a feeling, according to the newspaper. 

The initiator of the Week Against Loneliness is Coalitie Erbij. The coalition consists of over 40 organizations, including the Salvation Army, Humanitas, Nationaal Ouderenfonds, and Nationale Vereniging de Zonnebloem. Over the next week, hundreds of local activities are scheduled where people with a small social network can make new contacts and strengthen existing ones. These activities include schools visiting nursing homes, elderly being invited to play football or dance, and neighborhood centers making lunch for local residents.