Understanding loneliness

In our modern societies having a ‘rich social life’ is widely seen and promoted as an essential part of a successful and happy life. At the same time there is a growing awareness that not everybody meets the social standard of having many friends and close family relations and that loneliness is a serious mental health issue that needs our attention.

An increasing number of initiatives aims to battle loneliness, ranging from an annual ‘loneliness awareness week’ in The Netherlands to a dedicated Secretary of Loneliness in the United Kingdom and from setting up informative websites with practical advice to addressing the negative effects of isolation in times of a worldwide pandemic.

Despite the large number of initiatives to raise awareness about loneliness, there is unfortunately still a lot of ignorance about what loneliness actually is. Loneliness is still in a sense a taboo subject. People who feel lonely find it difficult to openly express it. And other people are often unsure how to respond to it.

“Loneliness,” says British writer and loneliness expert Olivia Laing, “feels like such a shameful experience, so counter to the lives we are supposed to lead, that it becomes increasingly inadmissible, a taboo state whose confession seems destined to cause others to turn and flee.”

Breaking that taboo starts with a better understanding of loneliness. Choose one of the topics below or browse the menu to learn more about loneliness.