Words: Dray Morgan
A new EU study presented this week has found that people from Ireland are more likely to be lonely than anywhere else in the EU. The study also found that younger people’s level of loneliness is yet to bounce back from pre-pandemic rates.
According to a recent EU study, Irish people are likelier to feel lonely than any other nation on the continent. The JRC collected EU-wide data on loneliness in 2022 to provide a comparative assessment of the prevalence of loneliness in EU countries.
Conducted in the final two months of 2022, it collected data from 25,646 respondents, targeting the general population aged 16 and above in all 27 EU Member States. The findings showed that over 20 per cent of Irish respondents to the “Loneliness Survey” said that they consistently feel lonely most or all the time.
However, according to the data Ireland is an outlier in most of Western Europe. The lowest level of loneliness can be found in nations such as The Netherlands, Spain and Belgium. So it begs the question of why is Ireland so lonely?
Geographically, Ireland has a low population density, making it physically more difficult to create larger communities. Ireland has 70 people per kilometer squared, with some counties such as Leitrim being low as 20 people per kilometer squared and Dublin coming in at the top with 1573 people per kilometre squared.
Over one-quarter of people who live in rural areas cite “being lonely when they’re old” as the top worry for staying in the countryside according to Macra Na Feirme. Furthermore, almost one-third of Irish farmers described their well-being as “poor”.
The study also found that younger people’s level of loneliness is yet to bounce back from pre-pandemic rates. A British study conducted by The Higher Education Policy Institute stated that one in four students claim to feel lonely.
Outside of Dublin, there is a huge gap in the amount of infrastructure available in order to combat loneliness. The lack of public transport links between rural communities forces social interactions to be at the mercy of a private vehicle. According to the American Centre Of Biotechnology Information, those who do not have the financial capacity or the physical ability to drive are often left unintegrated in society.
Inside Dublin, the housing crisis has made it harder than ever for adults to form social bonds. Longer commute times and living far from friends and family can also exacerbate loneliness. It comes alongside mass Irish immigration, with The National Youth Council of Ireland reporting that more than seven out of ten young people “are considering emigration for a better quality of life than in Ireland”.
This issue is even more prevalent in the elderly, with a recent Trinity College study finding that 37 per cent of people aged 50 and over reported feeling lonely often or some of the time, rising to almost half of all people over 70.
Healthline states lonely people suffer disproportionately from mental health issues, cognitive decline, hypertension, and are more likely to be admitted for residential or nursing care. Dr David Robinson, a consultant geriatrician at St James’s Hospital even goes as far to say that being extremely lonely has been likened to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
If you have been affected by the issues in this piece, here are Irish charities who aim to combat loneliness:
Read the full report here.
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