A good one in four calls to the telephone counseling center this year is about loneliness. “Especially since the beginning of the corona pandemic, this has been a problem that has been mentioned again and again and affects all age groups,” said the chairman of the nationwide telephone counseling working group on statistics, Ludger Storch, of the German Press Agency. “Of course, that was particularly evident during the lockdowns. The framework conditions have changed in the meantime, but the fundamental problem is still there,” said Storch.
The Patient Protection Foundation described loneliness as “the biggest widespread disease in Germany”. Board member Eugen Brysch said that not only the elderly are affected by loneliness. It falls short when Federal Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) appeals to those affected to seek help of their own accord and to use offers such as telephone counseling.
"Doing something against the growing loneliness in society cannot only be left to institutional providers," said Brysch of the German Press Agency. "It is much more important that each of us sensitizes himself to this common disease." It is important to take personal responsibility and to have "the courage to speak out".
According to Storch, many callers to telephone counseling report “that they have difficulties getting back in touch with other people”. Loose relationships have fallen asleep during the Corona period and one does not know how to revive them or find new connections.
In total, around 1.2 million people would have called the telephone counseling service in 2022, about as many as in the previous year. "This continues the high demand that we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic," said Storch, who is also the head of the telephone counseling service in Bochum. The approximately 7,700 volunteers also answered around 43,000 emails and 37,000 chats.
Shortly after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the proportion of older callers increased noticeably, Storch said. "Many of them expressed fears because they felt reminded of their own war experiences." According to Storch, in the months that followed, a third of the conversations with people over 80 were about this topic.
The energy crisis and rising costs are also reflected in the telephone counseling calls. "Especially people who already have a tight budget are worried about how they can manage with their money and avoid additional payments," said Storch.
The most common topics among all calls are still relationship stress, problems caused by mental illness and other personal crisis situations.