Since 2012, Statistics Netherlands has been gauging social cohesion and well-being in the Netherlands on a yearly basis. Every year, they conduct a survey among a random selection of 3.600 Dutch citizens and – implicitly – ask about loneliness: do participants feel that they have enough people to fall back on if something bad happens in their lives or do they experience an emptiness around them?

According to the latest figures, approximately 65 percent of Dutch people do not feel lonely. Age and education level are important factors: among 15-25-year olds, 70 percent are not lonely; the same goes for 71 percent of highly educated people.

Students are both young and highly educated; are they therefore the least lonely? “As we haven’t specifically researched that question, that is not a statement you can really make”, says Tanja Traag of Statistics Netherlands. “However, if you look at the figures, that does seem to be what they imply.”

Public perception

How should these results be viewed in light of the previous alarming survey results with regards to the emotional state of students? The previous results indicated that growing numbers of students were suffering from anxiety, stress and depression.

Traag does not have an explanation for this apparent discrepancy, but she does say that surveys about a ‘subpopulation’ – in this case students – are often not representative. “Participants are often recruited through a certain website, for instance, which means that preselection has already taken place.”

The Statistics Netherlands research cannot yet determine any trends, as this year’s survey was conducted with a new method of measurement.