Annual meeting

Loneliness – Existential Experience and Societal Challenge

Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Leibniz-Saal, Markgrafenstraße 38, 10117 Berlin


According to current surveys, around a quarter of the population in Germany feels very lonely. Is loneliness becoming a national health issue? This is suggested by the potentially harmful consequences for health – according to some studies more serious than that of obesity – and the talk of an “epidemic of loneliness” with far-reaching societal and economic implications.

In recent years, the topic has increasingly become the focus of public and political attention. The introduction of a competence network and the presentation of a national strategy to counter loneliness by the German Federal Government in 2023 are clear signals. The UK even went one step further and created a dedicated ministry in 2018. These developments raise the question of whether loneliness is a fundamental human experience or rather a characteristic symptom of modern society.

What exactly do we mean by loneliness? It cannot simply be equated with being alone, but also affects people within communities. The feeling of loneliness is complex and is experienced differently by each individual. Some groups are more affected than others. At the same time, loneliness is interpreted and valued differently depending on the historical and cultural context. Not least, it is also considered as a meaningful and desirable state. So, are there “good” and “bad” forms of loneliness? How can conditions for positive aspects be created, and how can negative manifestations and their consequences be countered?

At its annual meeting, the German Ethics Council first analyses this complex phenomenon in the context of contemporary history and the history of ideas and examines its empirical foundations from the perspectives of social sciences, psychology and medicine. Furthermore, it looks at manifestations of loneliness in different situations and stages of life. Approaches to dealing with loneliness in social work and pastoral care are then be discussed. The event will conclude by discussing the societal and political questions and challenges posed by loneliness and who bears which responsibilities.

Please switch to the German version of this website to see the programme.