Discussion paper

DP16674 Alone and Lonely. The economic cost of solitude for regions in Europe

Solitude is a rising phenomenon in the western world. The number of people affected by solitude has been rising for some time and the Covid-19 pandemic has brought this trend to the fore. Yet, we know next to nothing about the aggregate subnational economic consequences of the rise in solitude. In this paper we analyse the consequences of solitude on regional economic performance across Europe, distinguishing between two of its key dimensions: alone living, proxied by the regional share of the population in one-person households; and loneliness, proxied by the aggregate share of social interactions. We find that solitude has important implications for economic development, but that these go in different directions. While alone living is a substantial driver of economic growth across European regions, high shares of lonely people undermine it. The connection of loneliness with economic growth is, however, dependent on the frequency of in-person meetings, with large shares of the population meeting others on a weekly basis yielding the best economic returns.

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Citation

Burlina, C and A Rodríguez-Pose (eds) (2021), “DP16674 Alone and Lonely. The economic cost of solitude for regions in Europe”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 16674. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16674