Swedish City’s New Campaign Helps Tackle Winter Loneliness | Saying hello can help people feel less lonely.
In Luleå, a city in northern Sweden, the sun only shines around three hours a day in the winter months. People tend to stay warm at home and that can be very lonely.
To help tackle winter loneliness, the municipality is asking everyone to just say hello to each other. The new campaign is called Säg hej! Which translates to say hello, according to US Time Today, is a simple way to connect lonely people. In a country known for people being reserved, this is a very big step.
An epidemic of loneliness
While the world is experiencing an increase in loneliness following the Covid-19 pandemic, in places that do not get a lot of sunlight during the winter months, the issues are exasperated, reported The Guardian.
“Loneliness and isolation are major problems at any time of the year and almost everywhere in the world right now,” Micael Dahlen, professor of wellbeing and happiness at the Stockholm School of Economics, said.
“It comes with the times that we live in, with the lifestyles that we have, where we don’t necessarily encounter each other to the same extent that we used to. This increases in winter when we are outside less and socializing less,” he added.
Swedish culture values privacy and interpersonal distance. So much so that during the pandemic, many people joked that social distancing was actually a way of life for most Swedes. This lack of personal connections can lead to loneliness.
While most people believe that loneliness is most prevalent amongst seniors who tend to live alone, the opposite is true. it is actually rising in young people. A recent study published in the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth found that loneliness in young people has been increasing and this negatively impacts mental and physical wellbeing. Research about Luleå found that 45 percent of 16-to-29-year-olds were experiencing problems due to being lonely.
The Säg hej! campaign
Åsa Koski, who works for the city, came up with the idea of the Säg hej! campaign. She wants the city, which is undergoing rapid growth due to green industry jobs, to be a friendlier, more welcoming, and less lonely place for newcomers.
“We don’t just want that Luleå is going to grow as a city; we want Luleå to be a pleasant and safe and friendly city as well where there’s culture, leisure activities, [and] sport,” Koski told The Guardian.
She added that being seen and greeted by strangers makes you feel like you belong. “Research shows that it has an effect on health and often an effect on wanting to help each other. If you say hi to your neighbors you are more likely to help them,” Koski said.
The Säg Hej is now being advertised on buses, in schools, and there are even workshops on how to greet one another. Many people agree that saying hello should be encouraged and believe that the more international the city becomes, the more people will become friendlier too.
“It’s really good that people say hello to each other,” 61-year-old city resident Pontus Wikström, said; “It means that people who meet without knowing each other become a little bit happier.”