One in five year nine student in Finland is lonely, according to the results of a World Health Organisation survey carried out in Finland by the University of Jyväskylä.
The WHO's global school-based student health survey (GSHS) "is a collaborative surveillance project designed to help countries measure and assess the behavioural risk factors and protective factors in 10 key areas among young people aged 13 to 17 years," according to the WHO's website.
The research also found that loneliness is particularly prevalent among ninth-grade girls in Finland, with one in four reporting that they are "very or fairly often lonely".
Lonely school children are more likely to experience pain, anxiety and difficulty falling asleep than other school children, the research discovered, and are also more likely to take medicine in an attempt to deal with their isolation.
"If you have a headache, you are just as likely to take a painkiller, whether you are lonely or not. However, lonely schoolgirls are more likely to take medicine to cure anxiety or to help with falling asleep," researcher Nelli Lyyra explains.
Adults responsible for safe environment
The researchers suggest a number of options for combatting loneliness. Previous research has demonstrated that developing social skills and being involved in activities specifically directed at younger people helps to reduce isolation in children and adolescents.
"The school can provide a safe social growth environment that the student feels a sense of belonging and acceptance. However, creating a socially safe school environment is always the responsibility of adults," Lyyra says, adding that schools can have an influence on how students treat each other.
"The skills and behaviors learned at home are also of great importance such as, for example, treating everyone with respect and knowing how to empathise with others," Lyyra says.