Edition 2020

Photo description: Older woman in flat looking outside through her window.

How isolated do we feel?

More than a quarter (26 percent) of the Dutch population aged 15 and over reported they experienced some isolation in 2019, and 9 percent said they experienced severe isolation. The remaining 66 percent did not feel isolated, according to the 2019 Social cohesion & Well-being survey.

26%9%33%9%How isolated do we feel?33%of over-15sexperiencesome isolationof over-15sexperiencesevere isolationof over-75ssometimesfeel isolatedof over-75soften feelisolated

Over-75s most often experience some isolation

People of 75 years or older are more likely to feel some isolationnoot1 (33 percent) than people under the age of 75 (25 percent). In addition, 9 percent of over-75s feel severe isolation, equal to the average of all ages.

Prevalence of social isolation, 2019 (%)
Somewhat isolated Severely isolated
Total 25.7 8.7
. .
15 to 24 yrs 25.2 9.0
25 to 34 yrs 24.6 7.9
35 to 44 yrs 22.8 10.9
45 to 54 yrs 26.1 8.6
55 to 64 yrs 26.0 8.0
65 to 74 yrs 24.7 7.8
75 yrs and over 32.9 8.8

Severe social isolation more common

Severe isolation among 35 to 75‑year-olds is on average more common in the social arena (need for more social contacts) than in the emotional sphere (missing an emotionally close bond). Of this age group, 13 percent experience severe social isolation, and 7 percent experience severe emotional isolation. There is no difference between the two types of isolation among people under 35 and over 75.

Social and emotional isolation, 2019 (%)
Severe social isolation Severe emotional isolation
Total 11.9 7.9
. .
15 to 34 yrs 9.9 8
35 to 74 yrs 13.2 7.4
75 yrs and over 9.7 10.9

Singles more often isolated

People living alone without a partner or children (14 percent) and single parents (15 percent) are more likely to experience severe isolation than people living with a partner (6 percent) or children living with their parents (8 percent). In particular they are more often socially isolated.

The State of Public Health and Carenoot2 includes a key figure on isolation, based on the Health Monitor held once every four years (most recently in 2016). The figures in this document are based on the Social cohesion and Well-being study conducted by CBS and relate to another age category (i.e. 15 years and over instead of 19 years and over). The study design and implementation are not entirely comparable.

The questions



This study uses an abbreviated form of the ‘Isolation scale’ by De Jong Gierveld (De Jong Gierveld and Van Tilburg, 2006). This scale approaches the concept of isolation as multidimensional, and a distinction is made between social and emotional isolation. The study respondents are offered 6 statements of which 3 are related to social isolation and 3 to emotional isolation.

The statements are as follows:

  1. I experience a general sense of emptiness.
  2. There are plenty of people I can lean on when I have problems.
  3. There are many people I can trust completely.
  4. I miss having people around.
  5. There are enough people I feel close to.
  6. I often feel rejected.

Respondents can answer ‘yes’, ‘to some extent’ or ‘no’ in response to these statements. In determining the scores on the scale and the degree of isolation, the guidelines of the developers of the scale were followed’ (De Jong Gierveld and Van Tilburg, 1999). More details can be found here.

The State of Public Health and Care

Website with key figures in the field of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, produced by eight collaborating organisations, including CBS.


This web publication was developed by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in cooperation with Textcetera The Hague.
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Explanation of symbols

Explanation of symbols
Symbol Explanation
Empty cell figure not applicable
. figure is unknown, insufficiently reliable or confidential
* provisional figure
** revised provisional figure
(between two numbers) inclusive
0 (0.0) less than half of unit concerned
2016–2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 average for the years 2016 up to and including 2017
2016/’17 crop year, financial year, school year etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
2004/’05–2016/’17 crop year etc. 2004/’05 up to and including 2016/’17

Due to rounding, some totals may not correspond to the sum of the separate figures.

About CBS

CBS responds to developments in Dutch society by providing statistical information as facts that matter, and communicates on these facts with the outside world. In doing so, CBS offers insights into current developments in society and helps answer policy questions. Research at CBS is focused on broad trends in society and how these are interrelated.

CBS has offices in The Hague, Heerlen and Bonaire with altogether approximately 2,000 staff. A society-oriented working attitude is essential to CBS. CBS provides figures which are relevant to society. Every year, CBS publishes around 600 statistical studies. Virtually every day, CBS data and figures are communicated to the outside world via news releases, video messages and through social media. This results in some 50,000 articles per year in daily newspapers and on news sites.

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Concept & image editing

Irene van Kuik


Anne Blaak

Janneke Hendriks

Richard Jollie

Hendrik Zuidhoek


Ronald van der Bie

Kees Groenenboom

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

Michel van Kooten

Sidney Vergouw

Paul de Winden

Elma Wobma

Karolien van Wijk

Gert Jan Wijma


Gabriëlle de Vet

Frans Dinnissen

Final editing

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

We thank all other colleagues who have contributed to this edition of The Netherlands in Numbers.