New survey on Belgians’ loneliness, happiness and satisfaction

New survey on Belgians’ loneliness, happiness and satisfaction

In a new quarterly survey, Statbel asks some 5,000 Belgians aged 16 to 74 about their personal well-being and living conditions. This survey is conducted, among others, at the request of Eurostat, in order to monitor the social recovery in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first results cover the third quarter of 2021. In the survey, questions are asked about feelings of loneliness, happiness and general satisfaction.

Loneliness mainly affects singles and the long-term sick

7.2% of Belgians always or usually felt lonely in the 4 weeks prior to the survey, while 1 in 3 Belgians never felt lonely (34.6%). In general, men suffer less from loneliness (38.6% never) than women (30.6%). Loneliness appears rather to be a problem for the older part of the population: more than 8% of 50 to 74-year-olds say they always or usually feel lonely, compared to 4.7% of 16 to 24-year-olds. Other vulnerable groups are the long-term sick and single people, where 27.3% and 16.7% respectively always or usually feel lonely.

There are differences between the regions: 11.1% of the inhabitants in Wallonia always or usually feel lonely, compared to 7.7% in the Brussels-Capital Region and 5.1% in Flanders.

Happiness lower among the unemployed and the long-term sick

About two thirds of Belgians always (10.9%) or usually (55.7%) felt happy in the four weeks before the survey. The highest score was recorded for people aged 16 to 24: just under 80% (79.4%) always or usually feel happy. At regional level, the inhabitants of Wallonia (66.4%) and Flanders (68.2%) score higher than those of the Brussels Capital Region, where 58.3% say they are always or usually happy.

Belgians who are unemployed (54.7%) or have a long-term illness (37.3%) find their situation bleaker than those who are employed, retired and students. 69.3% of the employed people say they are always or usually happy. This figure is 67.7% for retired people and even 79.8% for students.

When we look at those who answered that they are rarely or never happy (6.6% of all Belgians), the percentage is the highest among singles (13.8%), 50-64-year-olds (9.5%) and 65-74-year-olds (7.1%).

When we look at income, it is striking that those with higher incomes also tend to better rate their feelings of happiness. For instance, 73.2% of Belgians in the highest income quintile indicate that they feel happy all the time or most of the time, while that is 56.8% for Belgians in the lowest income quintile.

The higher the income and education level, the higher the satisfaction

Finally, we asked Belgians to give a score out of ten for their financial situation, their personal relationships and their general life satisfaction. On average, personal relationships scored the highest, with 7.8/10. It is followed by general life satisfaction with 7.5/10 and financial situation with 7/10.

Those who gave 8/10 or more to each category belong to the most satisfied group. Just over one fifth of Belgians (21.5%) are in this situation. The indicator shows clear differences between social groups. The highest level of general satisfaction is found among the highest income group (32.5%), highly-skilled people (27.5%) and students (26.8%). The lowest general satisfaction is found among the unemployed (4%), the long-term sick (5.1%) and Belgians with the lowest incomes (10.5%).

These general trends in high (scores 8-10) and low (scores 0-5) satisfaction scores can also be observed for the three components separately.

In the area of personal relationships, young people (16-24 years) most often give high scores (between 8 and 10): three quarters of them (75%) give a high score here. For the 65-74-year-olds, this share drops to 65.7%. More than 70% of employed people (71.3%), students (78.2%) and househusbands and housewives (75.3%) give themselves a high score for personal relationships, while for the unemployed this figure drops to 55.3% and for the long-term sick to 49.9%. Single people are less likely to report satisfaction with personal relationships (54%) than, for example, people living in couple without children (74.8%).

When we look at the financial situation, the link with the income class is very strong. The higher the income class, the higher the satisfaction with the financial situation: 56.6% for the highest group and 22.6% for the lowest.

The lowest scores on the financial situation are found among the unemployed (41.6% give a score between 0 and 5 out of ten) and among the long-term sick (38.9%). This is a big difference compared to employed people and students, where respectively 8.5% and 12.8% give such a low score. Also in Brussels (29%) and Wallonia (20.4%), we see low scores for financial satisfaction more often than in Flanders (10.2%).

Finally, low-skilled people are also less satisfied with their financial situation (27.4% give a high score) than medium-skilled people (34.2% give a high score) and a highly-skilled people (49.4%).

For general life satisfaction, people aged 16 to 24 again give a high score (68.5%). Among the over-50s, less than 55% give a score between 8 and 10. Belgians in the highest income group report high life satisfaction (65.2%), while this drops to 47.9% for compatriots in the lowest income group. While 14.1% of low-skilled people give themselves a low general life satisfaction score, this is only 5.2% for the highly-skilled people.

The unemployed and the long-term sick report low satisfaction scores. 21.7% of the unemployed have a low general life satisfaction, while for the long-term sick this rises to 35.1%.

Also 13.8% of the inhabitants of Wallonia and 12.1% of the inhabitants of Brussels score low on general life satisfaction, compared to 5.2% in Flanders.

Here too there is a difference between singles and couples without children. 36.1% of single people give a general satisfaction score between 8 and 10, compared to 63.1% of couples without children.