Changes # 1. Social cohesion

Cato Hemels

Almost half of the Netherlands is lonely

Last month, #maatjegezocht (buddy wanted) was trending on social media. This hashtag brought a different light to the theme of loneliness. Loneliness has been raised in the Netherlands in recent years after some shocking events. Last week, Minister de Jonge of Public Health, Welfare and Sport opened the Week against Loneliness. 

Loneliness is deadly

Loneliness is a subjective experience, a feeling. It can be defined as: "the subjective experience of an unpleasant or intolerable lack of (quality of) certain social relationships."

Dirk de Wachter (psychiatrist) argues that loneliness is the greatest ailment of today's city. American and Swedish researchers explained at a conference about the epidemic of loneliness that loneliness is a threat to public health. Missing a social network or contact undermines the body just as much as smoking or chronic obesity.  

Research shows links between loneliness and the risk of heart attack, an increase in stress hormones, poor immune system and even premature death. It has also been established that lonely people visit their GP more often and receive home care. An American study of more than 1,500 elderly people shows that elderly people who consider themselves lonely have a 45% higher risk of death and a 59% higher risk of functional decline.

German psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer states in his book that loneliness is a major problem. "Loneliness is 20% more deadly than smoking and twice as deadly as drinking." Brain researchers discovered that the brain's pain center is activated when someone feels lonely. In addition, loneliness increases cortisol, the well-known stress hormone. If you think that no one will take care of you if you become sick or unemployed, this can cause a lot of worries. It is a taboo to stand out for loneliness. Especially in the digital world in which we live. Doctors often consider loneliness to be a side effect of disease, so loneliness is not recognized. Spitzer advocates recognizing loneliness as a disease.

Problem of all generations

Loneliness quickly brings to mind the elderly. But this is an incorrect and incomplete picture: all generations experience loneliness. The figure below shows that all ages have a certain degree of loneliness and that loneliness increases from the age of 75.

Loneliness belongs to all of us

The causes of a lonely feeling are diverse. You can feel lonely in a large group of people because there is no essential contact. You can also miss a deceased partner or lack friends. All this falls under the heading of loneliness.

On a social level, there seems to be a relationship between secularization and loneliness. In addition, VU professor Van Tilburg thinks that the self-reliance that is required in today's society is a cause of loneliness. We will discuss this further in a subsequent article.

According to the Council for Public Health and Society, the degree of loneliness will increase in the coming years. Spitzer thinks digitization is a major cause of loneliness. Online we show the best version of ourselves. This makes admitting weakness even more difficult.

Our attention to loneliness

Ftrprf aims to make tomorrow a little better every day. That is why we have identified thirty changes that have an impact on our common future. One of these changes is social cohesion. Because we think it is important to pay more attention to this personally, we will delve deeper into the theme of loneliness and social cohesion next month and regularly publish this on our website. Let's break the taboo and start talking about it. Are you reading along, are you participating?

Cato Hemels is an analyst at ftrprf and wrote this article for the theme Social Cohesion


BNN Vara
Volksgezondheid en zorg
Artikel US onderzoek

Leave a Reply