Loneliness today: understanding, accepting and acting

Loneliness is one of the most significant social problems of our time, affecting people of all ages, from young adults who are going through important life transitions to older people who may have lost important social contacts. Coping with and overcoming loneliness is therefore a central concern in our society and one of the main missions of our network in collaboration with the Loneliness Competence Network.

The profound effects of loneliness

Loneliness is often misunderstood as simply being alone; however, it is a state in which people experience a considerable discrepancy between the social contact they would like to have and the social contact they actually have. This discrepancy leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Various studies show that prolonged loneliness increases the risk of a number of physical and mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and even cardiovascular disease.

Psychological and physiological consequences

Loneliness not only leads to psychological suffering, but also impairs the immune system and can shorten life expectancy. The state of isolation puts the body under stress, and increased cortisol levels can have a negative impact on general health. This makes it clear that the fight against loneliness not only has an emotional component, but also a significant health component.

Strategies for overcoming loneliness

In addition to the services offered by REDEZEIT FÜR DICH, there are many other ways to move back towards the centre on the polar axis of ‘individuality vs. sociality’. We all have different life stories and therefore there is no one solution to alleviate the feeling of loneliness. It is crucial that you recognise and accept your loneliness, but then actively do something about it instead of giving in to the feeling. Here are some tips that can help you overcome loneliness:

  • Talk about your feelings: Don't ignore or cover up your loneliness. Try to talk to someone about it and seek help. Talking openly about your situation can have a liberating effect.

  • Maintain existing contacts: Make a conscious effort to keep in touch with your family and friends. Regular phone calls or virtual meetings can help you stay in touch, even if you are physically separated.

  • Expand your circle of friends online and offline: Use social networks to find like-minded people and try to turn these contacts into real friendships. Join groups that share your interests, such as book clubs, sports clubs or music groups.

  • Choose your contacts wisely: It's not the number but the quality of your social contacts that counts. Surround yourself with people who are good for you and with whom you share common convictions.

  • Stay positive and patient: Expect the best when you approach others and be patient in your search for fulfilling relationships. Don't take setbacks too hard.

  • Strengthen your self-image: Work on a positive self-image and treat yourself well. Doing things on your own, such as going to the swimming pool or cinema, can be just as enjoyable. Make yourself comfortable at home and consciously enjoy time alone.

  • Interact in everyday life: Talk to neighbours or people you meet on everyday errands. Even small conversations can strengthen your sense of belonging

  • Use the support of animals: Animals can provide emotional support. If you don't have a dog of your own, consider walking a dog from an animal shelter.

  • Attend self-help groups: In self-help groups, you can talk openly about your feelings and realise that others are going through similar experiences. This can provide relief and open up new perspectives.

  • Seek professional help: If you realise that you are not getting anywhere on your own, psychotherapy can be a useful way of exploring and overcoming the causes of your loneliness.

Understanding loneliness today

Loneliness is often misunderstood and is much more than simply being alone. It arises when there is a perceived discrepancy between actual and desired social relationships. For some, loneliness means a lack of close emotional ties, while others feel lonely because they have less social contact than they would like. The ‘Loneliness Competence Network’ sees personal feelings as the best indicator of whether someone is lonely or not. In contrast to the objectively measurable state of being alone, which can be perceived positively or negatively, loneliness describes a subjective feeling of isolation.

You can live alone and not feel lonely, or be in a relationship and still experience loneliness. Science also distinguishes between different forms of loneliness: emotional loneliness, which is characterised by a lack of intimate connections; social loneliness, which is characterised by the absence of a wider social network; collective loneliness, which describes the feeling of not belonging to a larger community; cultural loneliness, which is characterised by the absence of a cultural or linguistic environment; and physical loneliness, which is characterised by the absence of physical closeness.

Depending on its cause and duration, loneliness can be categorised as temporary, situational or chronic, with chronic loneliness in particular significantly reducing quality of life and having a negative impact on physical and mental health.

Who is affected by loneliness in Germany?

Who is affected by loneliness in Germany? According to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, people in transitional situations such as starting an apprenticeship or entering retirement, as well as people who have suffered a stroke of fate, are particularly at risk of loneliness. Single parents, singles, family carers and people with health problems are also frequently affected, and the ‘Germany Barometer Depression 2023’ shows that 25% of adults feel very lonely, although this feeling is often independent of the number of social contacts.

Interestingly, older people report feeling very lonely less often than younger people, despite having fewer social contacts, and loneliness is also a serious problem among teenagers and young adults. A study from North Rhine-Westphalia shows that between 16 and 18% of young people between the ages of 16 and 20 feel very lonely. The study also shows that young people who are unemployed, live in poverty or have mental health problems are at a particularly high risk of loneliness.

Negative effects of loneliness on adolescents and young adults

Young people who experience loneliness are more prone to authoritarian attitudes, believe in conspiracy theories and condone political violence. These tendencies show the urgency of not only strengthening young people's social networks, but also promoting their political and social education in order to counteract alienation from democratic values.


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About the authors

The editorial team of REDEZEIT FÜR DICH is a team of mental health experts, professional coaches and dedicated writers who are committed to sharing knowledge and insights around the topic of mental wellbeing. With a deep understanding of the challenges of modern life and a wealth of experience in supporting people in crisis, the editorial team provides content that informs, inspires and shows ways to personal fulfilment.

In the articles by the REDEZEIT FÜR DICH editorial team, readers will find a carefully curated mix of practical advice, in-depth reflections and motivating stories. Each article is written with the aim of encouraging readers to prioritise their mental health, strengthen their resilience and build a supportive network.

The REDEZEIT FÜR DICH editorial team is always open to suggestions, feedback or personal stories that you would like to share with us. We are here to support, share and pave the way to a mentally healthy community together.