Loneliness at Christmas not only affects the elderly, but also the young

The Christmas holidays are always a difficult time for people who are left isolated, as families and friends gather to celebrate.

But this was the year of the coronavirus and loneliness has been present in everyone’s life for months.

A report released in the summer notes that nearly three times as many people reported feelings of loneliness compared to 2019.

Experts across Europe say that the focus needed to maintain our physical health has come at the expense of mental health.

“We always talk about the transmission of the virus, but loneliness is also a public health problem,” Pedro Gullón, an epidemiologist, told the Spanish newspaper elDiario.es.

For Sonia Lippke, a psychology professor at Jacobs University in the northwestern city of Bremen, the term “social distancing” is itself a complicated concept.

Lippke says this has overtones of loneliness that can be particularly difficult for isolated people.

“We just have to distance ourselves spatially, not socially,” he told ZDF broadcaster, adding that even a greeting from a passerby through a window can help.

It can change a lot when someone notices that someone else sees it, he says.

Not just the elderly

Social distancing norms have meant that many older people – at greater risk of serious health effects – spend the entire year physically separated from their grandchildren and neighbors.

But loneliness also affects young people and, according to a German study, it is much more difficult for them to cope.

A regular study by the German Center for Aging Issues (DZA) found that older people found it much less difficult to deal with the COVID-19 restrictions.

They also coped better at the beginning of staying home with drastically reduced social contact, according to the study.


Klaus Berger, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Münster in West Germany, says this is because older people are more experienced and “are not so easily scared, as they have learned to deal with illness and crisis.”

Plan your time

Psychologists say that it is important for everyone, young and old, to take care of their mental health by being aware of what is good for them and taking time to really enjoy themselves.

Great food, spending time outside, sitting down to watch a favorite movie – all can be as effective as social contact with a video call.

But psychologists encourage any kind of social contact possible during the holiday period.

Charities and governments across Europe have programs in place to support those who experience loneliness during the holiday period.

In the Italian region of Umbria, for example, local authorities are offering a Christmas meal delivery service to seniors who are forced to spend December 25 alone.

In Germany, TelefonSeelsorge has 104 anonymous call centers across the country, staffed by volunteers willing to examine problems at any stage of life.

And a charity in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is arranging for locals to make friends with older residents for a phone conversation over the Christmas period.

Several European charities also offer support to people who feel lonely during the festive period, including:

France: Astree

Germany: Telephone counseling

Spain: Age Concern España

UK: Campaign to End Loneliness