April 11, 2023

Does old equal lonely in Sweden?

The NEAR Principal Investigators, Ingmar Skoog and Carin Lennartsson participated in the Swedish radio program “Kropp & Själ” in P1. In this program, they discussed loneliness in old age in Sweden.

Picture of Carin Lennartsson and Ingmar Skoog

“It is a myth that older adults are more lonely in Sweden than in other countries”, says Ingmar Skoog Professor of Psychiatry.

Studies show that older people around the Mediterranean, such as in Italy and Spain, experience more involuntary loneliness and are also more depressed than older persons in Sweden.

“We have the most persons living alone, but we perceive loneliness the least. We often confuse social isolation and living alone”, says Associate Professor of Social Work, Lena Dahlberg.

But Sweden still has older persons who suffer from loneliness. Based on the NEAR study, SWEOLD, about 10-15% of those aged 77 years and older feel involuntary loneliness often or almost always. It is a painful feeling and a significant problem that has consequences for both personal health and society in terms of costs. Interestingly, the NEAR-based H-70 study shows loneliness has been pretty stable among older adults for 50 years.

To address involuntary loneliness, we first need to understand what we are talking about – what does loneliness look like and what can we do about it?

“We see social loneliness, emotional loneliness, and existential loneliness. These three types of suffering require different interventions and therefore we need a better understanding of what we are talking about when talking about loneliness”, says Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Carin Lennartsson.

Listen to the program here

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