Loneliness, this scourge which weighs on the mental and physical health of the French

Loneliness, this scourge which weighs on the mental and physical health of the French

A sedentary lifestyle and depression are today considered the evils of the century, but the consequences of loneliness are no less disastrous for populations. A public health problem that a significant proportion of French people would experience, and which would have a significant impact on their physical and mental health, as well as on their lifestyle, as revealed by a new study.

An “urgent health threat”. It is in these terms that the World Health Organization (WHO) addressed the problem of loneliness last November, when announcing the creation of a new Commission on social bonds. An illness that would affect nearly one in four people in the world, according to a survey carried out by Meta and Gallup in more than 140 countries in the fall of 2023. And Europe is far from being spared, given the latest data published by the Fondation de Europe: 11 million people feel alone, or 20% of the population aged over fifteen. A phenomenon which continues to grow, in Europe as in the rest of the world, and which is not without consequences on the health of the people concerned.

Young people more impacted

This is what a survey carried out by Ifop for Goodflair and FLASHS reveals on the occasion of World Loneliness Day, scheduled each year for January 23. We learn that while the family appears to be the main socialization network, 9% of those questioned are considered isolated. This is so-called objective loneliness, calculated according to the frequency with which respondents spend time with their different social networks. The survey reveals in particular that Ile-de-Europe is the region with the largest share of isolated people (14%), ahead of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Occitanie (12%), while that Brittany hosts the fewest (2%).

If we look at the feelings of the respondents, more than four in ten French people (44%) say they regularly feel alone, including 13% who endure this loneliness “often” and 5% “every day or almost “. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily the elderly who most frequently feel alone (37% of those aged 65 and over), but the younger generations. Nearly two thirds of 18-24 year olds (62%) say they regularly feel this loneliness, compared to 49% of 25-34 year olds and 43% of 35-49 year olds. Note also that the feeling of loneliness affects women more (48%) than their male counterparts (40%).

A loneliness that affects the youngest

Interestingly, the survey reveals that solitude is most often chosen: more than half of the panel (58%) say they seek it from time to time. But a fifth of those questioned (21%) say they try to avoid it at all costs, and the same proportion say they don’t know if this solitude is chosen or suffered. Among those who regularly feel alone, 49% admit to suffering from it. A feeling which this time affects men more (51%), but still the younger generations (63% of 18-24 year olds), and which has already resulted in crying (67%), intense periods of stress, nervousness or anxiety (66%), sleep disorders (61%), episodes of depression (50%), suicidal thoughts (34%), or even libido disorders (30%) .

People who feel alone try by all means to remedy this problem. Something that involves using social networks (69%), going to places that are generally teeming with people (36%), using dating sites or applications (32%), or talking to people. conversational artificial intelligence (13%). Note, however, that a third of the respondents concerned (32%) say they have consumed alcohol to compensate for this feeling of loneliness. Here again, men are more concerned, at 45%, compared to 22% of their female counterparts.

How to combat loneliness?

Every year, on the occasion of the end-of-year celebrations, many organizations, networks and associations mobilize to fight against isolation, like the Fondation de Europe which organizes ‘solidarity awakenings’. ‘. Surprisingly (or not), studies have also shown that poetry is a bulwark against loneliness, just like certain pets. In Sweden, the town of Luleå recently encouraged its residents to greet each other, through a major awareness campaign, to encourage social interactions and combat winter loneliness. Quite simply.

Good in his body, good in his head!

Consequences on mental and physical health

High rates of social isolation and loneliness around the world have serious consequences for health and well-being. People who do not have enough close social connections are at increased risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, suicide and many other illnesses“, recalled last November Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO.

Indeed, previous studies have linked loneliness to an increased risk of mortality. In 2017, two meta-analyses presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, in Washington. had estimated that loneliness would kill at least as much as obesity.

Consequences which suggest that loneliness is indeed one of the public health problems that should not be neglected.