Finns feel lonelier than others

Finland has more lonely young adults than the other Nordic countries and Estonia. Both partnered and single individuals feel lonely in our country. A recent comparison based on data from the Generations and Gender Survey reveals this sad result. Finland participated in this international survey for the first time in winter 2021-22. The Family Federation of Finland managed data collection.

The Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) is a European survey that explores changes in population and family structures as well as the well-being of young adults.

In GGS, loneliness is measured using the scale developed by de Jong Gierveld and colleagues (de Jong Gierveld 1987; de Jong Gierveld et al. 2018). The scale is based on the assumption that loneliness reflects a mismatch between what individuals want from their interpersonal relationships and what they have. Accordingly, loneliness can be experienced even when there are other people around, and on the other hand, a person living alone can be quite satisfied with their social life. Of course, the feeling of loneliness is usually linked to the experience of not having enough people close to you or not meeting them often enough.

GGS respondents were asked to estimate whether they think their social resources are sufficient, in terms of quality or quantity, by answering “yes”, “to some extent” or “no” to six statements:

” There are plenty of people I can rely on when I have problems”

“I experience a general sense of emptiness”

“I miss having people around “

“There are many people I can trust completely”

“Often, I feel rejected “

“There are enough people that I feel close to”.

These form a loneliness variable on a scale from zero (feeling not lonely and as a part of social network) to six (feeling alone and without social connections).

The Generations and Gender Programmme, which leads the GGS survey, recently compared experiences of loneliness in different countries. Of the countries for which GGS data are currently available, Finland had the highest number of people aged 18-49 who felt lonely (Figure 1).

Figure explained in the text.
Figure 1

In international comparison, Estonia, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, among others, had fewer young adults experiencing loneliness than Finland. Respondents who had a partner at the time of the survey were on average less lonely than those who were not in a relationship.

However, Finland also had the highest rate of loneliness among respondents in a relationship among the countries included in this comparison. In other words, the lack of a partner does not explain the loneliness of Finns. Finland’s results for those in a relationship were quite close to the UK, Czech Republic, and Norway, while those not in a relationship were clearly lonelier in Finland than in the other countries.

We also looked at Finnish people’s experiences of loneliness by gender and whether they had children. Men were slightly lonelier than women (mean 2.95 for men and 2.85 for women). The difference between those who were in a relationship and single respondents was slightly larger for men than for women (Figure 2).

Figure explained in the text.
Figure 2. Age group: 18-49, N= 2552.

There was not much difference in the experience of loneliness between respondents with and without children. Childless women were slightly more likely to experience loneliness than mothers. Fathers were slightly more likely to experience loneliness than childless men (Figure 3). It should be remembered that these results do not show the association of possible other factors such as income, health, or place of residence with loneliness. At first glance, however, by international standards, the general experience of loneliness among Finns is not related to the fact that we have fewer adults in relationships or having children.

Figure explained in the text.
Figure 3. Age group: 18-49, N= 2552.

With whom do you discuss important issues?

The GGS survey also asked respondents about people with whom they usually discuss important personal issues. The options were different groups of people (for example, ‘sibling’, ‘colleague or neighbors’, etc.), so the answers do not measure the size of social networks but the type of relationships the respondents consider close enough for sharing their life matters with. On average, respondents mentioned three different groups of people, with women mentioning slightly more (3.2) than men (2.7).

Figure explainded in the text.
Figure 4. Age group: 18-49, N= 2552.

For both men and women, the most common group for important conversations was ‘friends, neighbors, work colleagues and other non-relatives’. However, one in five women aged 18-49 and one in three men did not mention or choose this group as someone with whom they would discuss important matters. Partners were the second most common group of people with whom important issues are discussed. Parents and siblings were also highly mentioned. Among close relatives, women chose mothers and sisters more often than male family members, while men reported discussing more with fathers and brothers than with mothers and sisters (Figure 4).

The level of loneliness experienced by young adults in Finland seems to be higher than in our counterparts. This result underlines the importance of international comparisons. In many comparisons, Finland ranks in the gold medal position. Knowing when we are doing worse than others is at least as important as knowing when we are doing well.

The Generations and Gender Survey (GGS), an international research infrastructure, conducted its second international data collection in 2020-2022. The Family Federation of Finland (Väestöliitto) was the implementer of the GGS Finland, under the leadership of Senior Researcher Venla Berg. The collection was funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Svenska Kulturfonden and the Alli Paasikivi Foundation. The work of the GGS team was supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The GGS Finland survey was prepared by a national steering group including leading fertility researchers, universities, and research institutes.

The results of GGS Finland have been already reported in the Family Barometer 2022 – Kuka haluaa lapsia 2020-luvulla? and in research articles accepted for publication: i) Artamonova, A., Sorsa, T, Berg, V., Hägglund, A., Rotkirch, A.: Social resources are associated with higher fertility intentions in contemporary Finland. Comparative Population Studies and ii) Artamonova, A., Sorsa, T, Berg, V., Hägglund, A., & Rotkirch, A.: Counting on parents or others? The role of social support for fertility intentions in Finland. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research.

More information:

Alyona Artamonova, post doc researcher, GGS Finland

Anna Rotkirch, Research director

Read more (in Finnish):

Yle (20.2.) Pleksin takana


de Jong Gierveld, J., T. G. van Tilburg ja P. A. Dykstra (2018) Loneliness and social isolation. The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

de Jong-Gierveld, J. (1987) Developing and testing a model of loneliness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(1), 119.

GGP data brief (2024) Generations and Gender Survey reveals: Loneliness.

Victor, C. R ja K. Yang (2012) The prevalence of loneliness among adults: a case study of the United Kingdom. The Journal of Psychology, 146(1-2), 85-104.


Rotkirch, A. & Artamonova, A. (2024). Finns feel lonelier than others. Science leak article 2/2024. Helsinki: Väestöliitto, Population Research Institute. Available: [Cited: ##.##.20##].

The research is part of the The Social networks, fertility and wellbeing in ageing populations: Building demographic resilience in Finland (NetResilience) project, which involves Väestöliitto, University of Turku, University of Helsinki and Aalto University. The research has received funding from the Strategic Research Council within the Academy of Finland.