One in three Finns is lonely – here is how you can help

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in loneliness. 

Loneliness is a chronic disease among Finns. Already before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one in five Finns experienced loneliness. Now that number has increased. According to latest studies, up to one in three people now experience feelings of loneliness.

The pandemic has increased loneliness among all age groups.

Perhaps for the first time, many people have now noticed being lonely.

“Perhaps for the first time, many people have now noticed being lonely, as they are unable to meet their colleagues or friends in everyday situations,” says Social Welfare Coordinator Maaret Alaranta from the Finnish Red Cross.

Restrictions increased loneliness

During the pandemic, loneliness has been increased by many changes to people’s everyday lives. It is difficult to meet new people, and everyday contacts have been reduced to the minimum. (Taloustutkimus, January 2021)

“The increase in loneliness can also be caused by losing your job due to the pandemic. Hobbies, meeting places and the activities of organisations have also been on a break. These are especially important places of interaction for many people living alone,” Maaret Alaranta says.

Loneliness is experienced in particular by people over 65 years of age and those living alone, having a small income or unemployed.

“You must be particularly active and come up with new ways to maintain your relationships. If you live alone, you can go a long time without meeting anyone face to face,” Alaranta says.

Loneliness is harmful to health

Isolation during the pandemic leaves its marks on society. As the exceptional situation still continues, it is important to work towards preventing loneliness deepening permanently.

Each of us needs the company of another person, and even a single positive relationship can stop the cycle of loneliness.

“We know very well that loneliness is harmful to a person. Feeling disconnected significantly weakens your well-being, and when it continues for a long time it can also cause physical symptoms and depression,” says Social Welfare Coordinator Maaret Alaranta.

Many Finns suffer from loneliness

One in three Finns experiences loneliness, at least at times. Loneliness can be caused by a variety of reasons.

There are as many reasons for loneliness as there are lonely people.

“Loneliness can be caused by a changed life situation or lack of close relationships. Other possible causes include tension experienced in social situations or not finding like-minded people.”

There are as many reasons for loneliness as there are lonely people.

Volunteer friends offer sorely needed company

The Finnish Red Cross conveys volunteer friends for people in need of company. Each year, up to 25,000 people feel less lonely thanks to the Red Cross friend activities.

“Friends who have found each other via the voluntary friend service meet regularly or alternatively act as online friends, i.e. exchange messages via email or chat. The key thing is having a confidential and positive connection with another person,” Maaret Alaranta explains.

Surveys conducted by the Finnish Red Cross show that organised volunteering, such as our friend activities, significantly alleviates loneliness and improves the quality of life.

“Meetings with a volunteer friend reduce the feeling of loneliness, freshen the mind and improve the sense of safety. Many lonely people are also encouraged by having a friend and become more active in life in general.”

Help alleviate loneliness

We now need more friends across Finland. Friend activities are arranged in around 300 locations and additionally online. You can take part in online friend activities regardless of location.

“Anyone can be a friend. No special skills are required. The ability to listen and be present is enough.”

Each year, up to 25,000 people feel less lonely thanks to the Red Cross friend activities.

The Red Cross trains and conveys volunteer friends for lonely people. Anyone needing company can request a friend. Friends who find each other via the voluntary friend service take care of their friendship by ordinary means.

“Friends can go for walks, have coffee, go to the museum or library, or simply just chat. Simple, ordinary things that interest both parties. Especially now in the pandemic, you can check in on each other by calling or sending messages.”

A small act can have a huge impact on the life of a lonely person. Sometimes one friend is enough to turn your whole life around.