The Portrayal of Lonely Finnish People
Pp. 156-183 (28)
Niina Junttila, Pamela Zoe Topalli, Sakari Kainulainen and Juho Saari
It has been argued that loneliness generates inequality in multiple ways. It
creates health gaps between population groups, differential risks of premature death,
and selective deficits in social wellbeing. It has been shown to have serious negative
consequences on people’s mental and physical health and to affect the performance of
individuals in various fields of life—over both the short and long run. More
specifically, loneliness has been argued to trigger the emergence or exacerbation of
mental and somatic diseases, to predict premature work disability and excessive alcohol
consumption, to limit opportunities for increasing the social capital, and to reinforce the
negative consequences of unemployment and poverty.
We studied the predictors, interrelations, and self-evaluated consequences of loneliness
among a population-level database of Finnish people. The sample consisted of 17,258
Finnish adults aged 30 to 60 years. Based on lonely people’s self-reports, loneliness has
resulted in a great deal of negative health, psychosocial well-being, and economic
related consequences. Overall, loneliness explained 57 percent of the men’s and 54
percent of the women’s health and psychosocial problems and 69 percent of the men’s
and 59 percent of the women’s self-reported problems in drinking and eating. For
economic problems, the corresponding values were 14 percent for men and 12 percent
for women. The importance of identifying loneliness in the prevention of psychosocial
and economic issues, substance abuse, and eating disorders and negative consequences
on health is discussed. Based on our findings, we argue that there is a legitimate reason
to consider loneliness as a form of social inequality and discuss the possible ways of
intervening in the loneliness of individuals.
Coping with loneliness, Indicators of loneliness, Loneliness, Negative
consequences, Prevalence and duration of loneliness.
Department of Teacher Education, University of Turku, FIN- 20014 University of Turku, Finland.