The research was conducted by life insurance group NN and Ghent university (UGent), and involved 3,770 Belgians as health economist Lieven Annemans tried to establish a type of 'national happiness barometer'.
The percentage of Belgians who feel "sometimes or permanently lonely" is highest in the category between 20 and 34 years of age: 54.5 percent. It is not much lower for those aged between 35 and 50, set at 53 percent in the large-scale poll. Contrary to what some may expect, older people are scoring a lot better, with the percentage for 70+ people dropping to 28.3 percent. The research did not involve those younger than 20.
Feeling unhappy in your relation, is as big a contributive factor as having no partner at all
The crucial factor is a relationship, whether this involves a partner or a good friend with whom you have a strong bond. "This is what makes the difference", says Annemans. However, there is a big 'but': "If you are unhappy in your relation, this will also add to feeling lonely. In fact, an unhappy relation is as big a contributing factor as having no partner." Living without a partner, multiplies the risk of becoming lonely by a factor of 3.6. For a bad relationship, this is 3.7.
Other factors triggering loneliness are low income and a bad health. Positive factors include taking care of others, having good friends and being engaged in a project or taking on social activities.
Annemans puts the figure for seniors into perspective: "It's true they are less often lonely then younger people, but when they do feel lonely, this has a much bigger impact in their lives."
There may be fewer old people feeling lonely, but when they are lonely, this has a much bigger impact on their life