Nearly half of all young Belgians feel lonely, according to a poll carried out by life assurer NN and the university of Ghent. The survey was more widespread, but the highest percentage came among those aged 20 to 34 (54.5%), with those aged 35 to 50 close behind on 53%.
On the other hand, people who took part in volunteer work, a club or association or some organised cultural activity felt substantially better than others, the National Happiness Survey found.
“Here lies the challenge for our towns and cities: to invest in social and cultural activities which bring people together, and encourage volunteer work,” said economist Lieven Annemans of Ghent university. “These days investment in such activities is called more and more into question, and that’s not a good thing for our national happiness.”
According to the poll, people in a happy relationship were five times less likely to be unhappy, but one in four Belgians reports they are not in a satisfactory relationship. Other factors playing a role in feelings of isolation are health and income level, with a monthly household income of less than €2,000 making it less likely to have a good relationship.
“There is a direct link between poverty and the chance of feeling isolated,” Professor Annemans said. “People who are poor have less opportunity to engage socially. They have more things to worry about. If your basic needs are not being met, you have less chance to work on the rest. But a decent income and level of health doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be happy. Then you see what an important role is played by the quality of your relationships.”