Social Democrats (SPD) health expert Karl Lauterbach told Bild that “loneliness among people over 60 increases mortality as much as heavy smoking does. Lonely people die earlier and suffer from dementia more often. There must be a person responsible for the issue, preferably in the Ministry of Health, who coordinates the fight against it.”
The UK established a government post to combat loneliness this week. The role was taken over by Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch. According to government figures, more than nine million people in the UK feel isolated, while 200,000 elderly people only have a conversation with a friend or relative once a month.
Christian Democrat (CDU) families spokesman Marcus Weinberg called for “a removal of taboos” on the subject “so that lonely people have a voice and loneliness doesn't remain a dirty issue.”
Weinberg argued that the social and health consequences of loneliness would become increasingly important in the coming years.
“We have to address the issue by promoting research, launching initiatives and developing new concepts,” he said.
Ulrich Lilie, head of the protestant charity Diakonie, also called for more political and social commitment against social isolation.
“We need an alliance of politics and social groups such as churches, charities, sports clubs and cultural institutions,” Lilie told Funke Mediengruppe on Friday. He added that loneliness is an under-reported problem that cuts right through society.
“Bringing lonely people back into society is a task that cannot simply be left to commercial providers such as Facebook or dating agencies,” he stated.
The president of the Social Welfare Association (SoVD), Adolf Bauer, told Bild that the people affected often simply do not know what to do.
“For this to change, the Federal Government must put loneliness on the agenda,” he said.
A study by psychology professor Maike Luhmann from the Ruhr-University in Bochum recently found that every fifth German over the age of 85 feels lonely. For 45-65 year-olds, one in seven feels isolated.
“There is no age group where people don't feel lonely,” Luhmann said.
Elderly, sick people who can hardly leave their homes are particularly affected, she said. “It is a vicious circle because social isolation can promote diseases such as depression or cardiovascular disease.”