Lulea Reveals Plan to Fight Loneliness Epidemic

( – A modest Swedish city on the country’s northern coast, is looking to fight the loneliness that seems to sweep the area – particularly during the punishingly cold, winter months – by encouraging members of the community to greet each other.

The city of Luleå sees as little as three hours of daylight in the peak of winter season, and while many residents are engaged in their own little and unique hobbies during the season such as ice swimming and cross-country skiing, many residents experience a profound sense of loneliness that comes with social isolation.

The local government is trying to upset the phenomenon by encouraging residents and visitors to say a simple “hello,” or greeting to other people they encounter throughout the day.

The campaign, eponymously dubbed “Säg hej!” or “Say Hello!” has so far been met with positive responses from residents. Katariina Yliperttula, 44 years old, who has taken up the habit of taking a cold swim before work, told the Guardian that receiving greetings is like getting a “happiness rush.” Another winter bather, 61-year-old Pontus Wikström says that the initiative makes people – who don’t necessarily know each other, “a little happier.”

The campaign was spurred by recent research that showed that almost half of the city’s younger population – people aged 16 to 29 years old – or 45%, said that they were experiencing problems related to feelings of loneliness. Older members of the population reported experiencing similar feelings, but in lesser numbers – 39% among women and 26% among men for members of the population aged 85 or older.

Micael Dahlen, who teaches subjects on wellbeing, welfare and happiness at the Stockholm School of Economics pointed to the modern lifestyle as the reason for the loneliness phenomenon, which is global in scale.

“It comes with the time we live in, the lifestyles we have,” he said. The World Health Organization says that the pandemic, which forced many to isolation, exacerbated the problem.

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