Loneliness in Finland

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This week, our topic is loneliness in Finland. Those who have moved to Finland from abroad often say that it is challenging to make friends in Finland. It seems, however, that loneliness in Finland is not limited to those who’ve moved here. It is also quite pervasive among native-born Finns. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss loneliness in Finland in general but we’ll also focus on loneliness at work. We finish off by briefly talking about the loneliness of those Finnish residents with a foreign background. 

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Loneliness in Finland

Earlier this year, Markus Laaninen and Mikko Niemelä published a study on loneliness in Finland focusing on the period from 2016 to 2022. They aimed to understand how experiences of loneliness had changed during this period. They also wanted to see whether experiences were similar across different demographic groups. And whether gender and family type are connected to experiences of loneliness. 

Before we get to their study results, let’s summarize what Laaninen and Niemelä tell us about loneliness in Finland prior to 2016. 

Earlier studies have shown that the share of people often or always feeling lonely in Finland has remained pretty much at the same level from the 1990s to 2010s. Depending on the study and study year, this share has fluctuated between 4 and 10 %. In studies from this period, about 20-30 % of Finnish said they felt lonely at least sometimes.

Feeling lonely is connected to socioeconomic factors. Those who are unemployed, have a lower education level or have income problems more commonly feel lonely. In addition, young people who are not working or studying feel lonely more often than those who do study or work. 

Those with families feel lonely less often than those who live alone. Men experience loneliness about as much as women. However, men living alone feel alone more often than women who are living alone. 

So, this is what we know about loneliness in Finland prior to 2016. Let’s now discuss the current study.

Study results

In the three surveys from 2016 to 2022 analyzed for this study, respondents were asked how often they had felt lonely during the preceding 12 months. They could choose between ‘never’, ‘seldom’, ‘sometimes’, ‘often’, or ‘all the time’. 

Laaninen and Niemelä classified those who answered ‘never’, ‘seldom’, or ‘sometimes’ as ‘not lonely’. They classified those who answered ‘often’ or ‘all the time’ as ‘lonely’.

They found that the share of people feeling lonely tripled between 2016 and 2022. In 2016, 6 % felt lonely. In 2022, 20 % did. The sharpest increase in loneliness during this period was among the 18-29 year-olds and 30-49 year-olds. 

Those with a lower education felt more alone than those with a higher education degree. In both groups, however, the sense of loneliness increased between 2016 and 2022. Their respective percentages in 2016 were 7.5 % and 4.3 %. In 2022, they were 21.6 % and 14.1 %.

Throughout this period, differences in the share of women and men experiencing loneliness were not very big. For example, in 2016 5.8 % of men felt lonely and 6.9 % of women did. In 2022, these percentages were 19 and 21.8 respectively. 

Interestingly, however, women who had a partner were 3-4 percentage points more likely to feel lonely than men who had a partner. Conversely, men living alone were more likely to feel lonely than women living alone. 

They found that overall people in Finland were 13 percentage points more likely to feel lonely in 2022 than in 2016. They also found that during this period, as before, those with low education were more likely to feel lonely than those with higher education. Loneliness was also more likely for pensioners, those unemployed, those living alone, or those who are single parents. 

Loneliness at work in Finland

Laaninen and Niemelä’s study focused on the period between 2016 and 2022. It did not specifically address work-life. We do, however, also have information about loneliness specifically in work contexts. 

In January 2022, Kantar Oy conducted a survey for HelsinkiMission on loneliness at work in Finland. According to this survey, 25 % of Finnish feel lonely at work at least occasionally. In comparison, about a third of Finns in this study feel lonely at least occasionally. Feeling lonely at work is then less common than feeling lonely overall. In this study, about 10 % report feeling lonely at work all the time. 

Loneliness at work in Finland in more detail

According to this study, loneliness at work is more common for women (32 %) than for men (22 %). It is also more common for those under 30 years of age. Of them, about 37 % feel lonely at work at least occasionally.

About 16 % of survey respondents said they felt excluded or ostracized from their work community at least occasionally. 6 % reported feeling excluded from their work communities quite often or all the time. 9 % of those working on site felt that way compared to 3 % of those with a hybrid more of working. 

Employees working in teams (4 %) were less likely to feel excluded than those working alone (9 %) or with clients (10 %). 

Feeling ostracized is more common for younger employees. Nearly a third (29 %) of employees 18-29 years of age reported having experienced ostracism. About 13 % of this age group reported feeling it repeatedly. 42 % of them said they had never felt that. In contrast, 70 % of employees over 50 said they had never felt ostracized.

The majority of respondents would like to have more social interaction at work. Only 34 % of respondents said they were happy with the amount of social interaction they experience at work. 

Loneliness among those with a foreign background

In 2018-2019, the Finnish institute for health and welfare conducted an extensive survey focusing and the health and welfare of Finnish residents with a foreign background. This FinMonik study gives us some ideas as to how prevalent loneliness is among this group of Finnish residents. Some of the results have been discussed in other publications as well. For example in Anu Castaneda and Hannamari Kuusio’s article in this publication

The respondents were asked whether they felt lonely ‘all the time’, ‘often’, ‘seldom’, ‘very rarely’, or ‘never’. 

According to this study, 14.3 % of Finnish residents with a foreign background felt lonely. Those from Estonia were less likely to feel lonely (10 %) and those from the Middle East and North Africa (23.4 %) were more likely. 

In general,  those who know Finnish or Swedish, are working, vote and feel a sense of belonging, less often feel lonely in Finland. This is particularly true for men with a foreign background. The linkage between these variables and not feeling lonely that often, however, is also true for women with a foreign background. 

There are, however, differences within the foreign-born population. For example, the connection between all of these variables and feeling less lonely is true for people from the EU and Efta areas and North America. Not feeling lonely is connected with working and language skills for people from the Middle East and North Africa. And with working and a sense of belonging for people from Russia and the former Soviet Union.  

This is our last blog before our summer break. We will be back with new blog posts in August. Have a great summer you all!

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