Solitary man – Social isolation, loneliness and their long term consequences.

[Yksin yhteiskunnassa]


Funding period:  1.1.2015–31.12.2017, Kone Foundation

Project leader:    Timo Anttila, PhD, Adjunct professor



Social relationships are central to human well-being. The lack of social relationships — defined as objective social isolation or subjective loneliness — has frequently been the focus of research. Substantial proportion of the earlier research has been conducted with specific groups of population. There is need to extend the focus to wider range of social circumstances and social categories.

The concepts of social isolation and loneliness have often been used interchangeably. They are, however, distinct but, nonetheless, interrelated concepts. Small social networks, infrequent social contacts, absence of confidante connections, living alone, and lack of participation in social activities, are criteria which have been used to define social isolation. Social isolation is concerned more with environmental impoverishment or restriction than with the individual’s ability to create and maintain social relationships. Loneliness is a subjective feeling of being without the type of relationships one desires. It may also describe a deficit between the actual and desired quality and quantity of social engagement. Where loneliness is understood as a subjective concept, social isolation can be defined objectively.

This research project has two aims (see research setting below). Firstly, the descriptive part of the project evaluates the deriving factors behind social isolation and loneliness. It utilizes large national representative surveys (Time Use Surveys 1977–2010, Living Conditions Surveys 1986, 1984 and Leisure Surveys 1991 and 2002)  to analyze the societal changes (demographic, time use and technological) and their relations of social isolation and loneliness.

Secondly, the explanatory part of the study employs longitudinal research methods to analyze register based follow up data, linked to aforementioned national surveys and analyzes long term economical (education, employment stability and incomes) and health-related (sickness absence, disability pension and mortality) consequences of social isolation and loneliness.

Research setting



Scientific articles


Conference papers

Social capital and cause-specific mortality. Timo Anttila & Jussi Tanskanen. Paper presented in 5th annual conference of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies 18–21 October 2015, Dublin, Ireland

Solitary time. Trends of time spent alone in Finland over the period 1987–2010. Timo Anttila, Tomi Oinas & Riitta Hanifi. Paper presented in 37th IATUR Annual Conference on Time Use Research, 5–7 August 2015, Ankara, Turkey

Social capital and mortality. Timo Anttila, Tomi Oinas, Jussi Tanskanen, Tomi Kankainen, Petri Ruuskanen. Paper presented in 12th  Conference of the European Sociological Association, 25–28 August 2015, Prague, Czech republic.