Young Irish women the most depressed and lonely in Europe

Poll shows 18- to 34-year-old EU citizens more likely to be depressed, lonely or anxious than older peers

Young Irish adults have become sharply more lonely since the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new data that examines mental health issues across the EU.

Asked if they had been lonely in the past fortnight, 23.6 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds polled said they had been lonely most or all of that fortnight because of the pandemic. This compares with 20 per cent across the EU.

Of these 8.6 per cent said “all of the time” and 15 per cent said “most of the time”, the Living, Working and Covid-19 report from Eurofound reported.

The only EU country with more lonely young adults was Hungary, with 24.4 per cent reporting problems , according to the survey.


Spain, with 16.4 per cent reporting loneliness, had the best record.

The situation is worse for young women: 27.5 per cent of those surveyed aged 18-34 said they had been lonely all or most of the last fortnight. This compares with 18.4 per cent across the EU27, and with 10.1 per cent in Spain.

In all other EU countries young men reported higher levels of being downhearted, depressed and lonely than young women, though young Irish women are the most depressed and lonely in Europe.

The online Eurofound survey was conducted in April with 85,000 participants. Of these 16,599 were aged 18-34, and 1,200 of these were from young adults in Ireland.

In all 18- to 34-year-old EU citizens are now more likely to be depressed, lonely or anxious than older peers, with lower abilities to deal with problems and with significant decreases in life satisfaction compared to before the pandemic.


The findings echo previous findings from Eurofound that Ireland had the highest incidence of moderate to severe depression among young women (aged 15-24) in the EU.

According to 2014 Eurostat data, 17 per cent of young Irish women suffer from moderate or severe depression. Some 9 per cent of young men are affected, compared with 7 per cent and 3 per cent respectively across the EU.

Mary McCaughey, spokeswoman for Eurofound, said Covid-19 had significantly hit people’s wellbeing.

“It should be noted that Ireland has comparatively high quality of life and wellbeing indicators for the population as a whole.

“However, the situation with regard to young women needs specific consideration. Unfortunately these findings reinforce existing data with regards to the health and wellbeing of younger women in Ireland.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times