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One in five people face chronic loneliness in France

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It affects absolutely everyone whatever the age or social category: loneliness, which still remains, is too little known, too hidden, too experienced as shameful and unmentionable since 3/4 of French people do not dare to talk about it. However, many of them suffer from it, as indicated by an Ifop survey for the Astrée association. The latter was carried out in a particular context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated health restrictions which have aggravated this feeling. Already, the “2021 Solitudes barometer” carried out for the Fondation de France by the Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions (Crédoc) last December showed that the Covid-19 epidemic had a strong impact on the frequency and quality of social ties.

Fortunately, the first lesson from this new survey is that the lifting of the various health restrictions (curfews, closure of public places, social distancing)… in June 2021 enabled a majority of French people to return to a normal social and emotional life (60%). But while most social distancing measures have been repealed, the proportion of respondents reporting suffering of the company of others has returned to its pre-crisis level. The feeling of lack had reached a peak during the second confinement (from October 30 to December 15, 2020) with 66% of French people who indicated that they sometimes missed the company of others (66%) and fell back to the proportion measured before the health crisis (52% compared to 51% in 2018).

Who are these French people facing chronic loneliness?

“In the light of the results, we understand that the vice imposed by restrictions partly loosened with less widespread negative feelings among the population. However, this improvement should not hide a less positive reality, the maintenance within the population of a minority of French people facing to chronic loneliness. », Considers the association. What about those people who always or often feel alone? This “cluster” represented 13% of the population before the health crisis in 2018 and weighed for 18% in December 2020. While we could expect a decline with the lifting of restrictionsthe data show that in 2021, the weight of this group remains at a level comparable to December 2020, i.e. 19% of the population.

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By extrapolating to the entire French population aged over 18, it is therefore approximately 9.5 million French who live in chronic loneliness compared to 6.5 million before the health crisis. For the Astrée association, “the lifting of social distancing measures was not enough to bring back the three million French people who had fallen into chronic loneliness towards fullness.Furthermore, the survey data debunks common misconceptions on this subject. Loneliness is actually more widespread among those under 25 (28%) and decreases with age (falling from 28% to only 9% among those aged 75 and over). Quite logically, however, singles (33%) and one-person households (31%) are more widely concerned.

Does teleworking reinforce the feeling of loneliness?

The association invited respondents feeling alone to explain the reasons for their loneliness, and it turns out that the testimonies collected are very varied. “Loneliness is thus explained by the personal or family situation (single, divorced, widowed or widower), but also by the lack of social relations, the temperament, the current health situation, the state of health, a move… In the light of the results, we understand that it is difficult to draw a composite portrait as loneliness takes on so many different faces. “, she says. Pandemic obliges, the use of telework has greatly increased in recent months: is it synonymous from a feeling of loneliness more pronounced? Yes, because the survey shows that teleworkers appear to be a particularly concerned public.

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Thus, 34% of respondents telecommuting at least three days always or often feel lonely, i.e. +15 points compared to the French population as a whole. The results of the survey show above all a “dose effect”: occasional teleworkers do not feel particularly lonely, unlike full teleworkers who are very prone to loneliness and suicidal thoughts (56% have experienced this). The data does not allow us to conclude that there is a feeling of loneliness induced by teleworking, because the association considers that it is possible that the latter “constitutes an escape for employees in difficulty on the psychological plane especially. The context of restrictions also made it more acceptable for those concerned to express feelings of loneliness.

But only during a parenthesis which is now over since the data from the 2021 edition shows that these new solidarities did not last with the lifting of restrictions. Because in December 2021, loneliness is less widely considered to be an important subject (- 5 points compared to December 2020) and fewer French people indicate being attentive to people suffering from loneliness. Finally, people affected by loneliness are less likely than a year ago to talk about it (27% against 32%). The Astrée association is campaigning for the fight against loneliness to become a priority for the next presidential term, and to this end invites Internet users to sign its manifesto in order to be able to carry out major awareness campaigns on this subject.

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