Feeling lonely in the middle of a crowd

According to a new survey, Maltese women are more likely to report feeling severely lonely than men.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Feeling lonely in the middle of a crowd - NewsMavens
Woman, Flickr

Why this story matters:

In numerous discussions both on and offline about the quality of life in Malta and elsewhere, Maltese returning from life abroad say they missed family and friends more than anything else. But loneliness is not only found in life abroad. "You're never alone," a travel article promoting Malta as a 'happy' place proclaims. "[F]aces quickly become familiar and people are generally open and friendly".

Yet a recent survey shows that, while over a half of Maltese women and men reported feeling 'not lonely', a quarter reported that they missed having people around them.

The Faculty for Social Well-being at the University of Malta, together with the National Statistics Office, conducted a national study on loneliness and found that of the 1,000 people they surveyed, 44% said they were either moderately (41%), severely or very severely lonely. There is an alarming proportion of women in the latter group, with three quarters of the very severely lonely and those with the highest emotional loneliness score being women.

The women's score was more equal with men on social loneliness (having social contact), but women tended to suffer more from emotional loneliness -- feeling lonely despite having people to interact with.

Little is known about the more subtle mechanisms that lead to this loneliness. More women live to an old age and, after losing their spouses, may lack regular social contact. Yet this does not explain severe emotional loneliness when they have people around. We also do not know how many of the women are stay-at-home mothers, chauffeuring their children around activities on the car-addicted islands with little time for themselves, their friends and participation in cultural activities. And despite the Mediterranean country's tradition of strong family ties, families are unsafe for an alarmingly large share of women.

Clearly, more research is needed to know what keeps Maltese residents, especially women, lonely. Yet the fact is, meaningful social contact is not a stroll away.

Details from the story:

  • The University of Malta's Faculty for Social Well-being, together with the National Statistics Office, conducted a survey of 1,000 people aged 11 years or older.
  • 94.2% of respondents said they did not live alone.
  • 42% of respondents aged between 35 and 54 and 55% of those aged 55 and over said they were moderately lonely.
  • 58% men and and 55% women felt not lonely.
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