Corona pandemic measures have often meant more time spent in involuntary solitude. But in Sweden, there is no national strategy yet to break the involuntary loneliness. Because of the serious health effects of loneliness, Helena Backlund Wasling thinks it is a topic that needs to be made visible and taken seriously.  

- In the corona pandemic, more people than ever suffer from loneliness. There should be an awareness, both in the individual and the community at large, of what happens when you become isolated, and what you can do to reduce the feeling of isolation, she says. 

Can also cause physical pain 

In the long run, loneliness can have several negative effects on our health. This can lead to depression, cardiovascular disease and premature death. 

- If you have a feeling of being isolated, it will have a negative impact on you and your entire physiology. Some have an easy time to develop these health risks, while others have more margins and can do better, says Helena Backlund Wasling, researcher in neuropsychology at the University of Gothenburg.  

How lonely are we? 

No good measurements are made of our loneliness, says Bengt Brülde, professor of practical philosophy at the University of Gothenburg. Statistics are kept on how often we meet friends or if we live alone, but not so much on how lonely we actually feel. 

- It makes it difficult to interpret the figures. Some statistics are completely uninteresting if you want to measure involuntary loneliness, such as the number of single households. It doesn't say anything about how lonely you are, says Bengt Brülde. 

The figures may speak next year 

Statistics Sweden's latest survey shows that 4 percent of Sweden's population is socially isolated. This means that you do not meet your family or friends more than a couple of times a month. There was no question of the perceived loneliness.  

In this year's survey from Statistics Sweden, however, participants will answer the question of whether they felt alone during the last four weeks. The statistics will be published in April 2021.  

In a 2014 SOM survey, 6 percent responded that they have no friends who understand them. Just over 7 percent said they did not feel close to their family.   

British strategy 

The UK is at the forefront when it comes to fighting involuntary loneliness. Two years ago, the British government invested £ 24.5 million to try to remedy the problem. Theresa May appointed a Minister of Loneliness to raise the issue and a national strategy was put in place.  

This would increase awareness of loneliness, raise the subject to a political issue and expand cooperation between health care and civil society.  

Social activities on prescription 

Doctors do not have the opportunity to act as support for people who feel lonely. But in the UK, doctors have instead begun to prescribe social activities on prescription. The person is then allowed to meet a so-called “link worker”. It is a kind of pilot that helps the person to find associations or activities that he himself is interested in. The pilot also accompanies the person for the first time to help break the isolation.  

The method has proven to be successful and has led to a reduction in the number of return visits to the health clinics.  

Believe in a collaboration 

In March, the think tank Arena Idea published the report "Loneliness kills - involuntary loneliness in Sweden". The report presents a number of methods that could reduce the problem. Although businesses such as "link workers" may now have to meet digitally, the sociopath and author of the report, Kerstin Thelander, strongly believes in this type of collaboration. 

- It's a big job just like other public health projects. It is not only non-profit organizations and associations that will work with this, but it must also enter care and care. An actor cannot reach everyone. Therefore, several actors must work together to help people who are lonely, she says.