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Vulnerable people don’t feel they can turn to neighbours
Following up on a study released this summer in which a full half of all Belgians said they felt lonely, the WWZ Knowledge Centre in Brussels now reports that 80 to 90% of residents in Brussels never visit their neighbours.
The wellness agency surveyed 220 Brussels residents, which included lengthy interviews. The goal of the research was to determine if people living below the poverty line and/or with mental or physical health problems felt they had the social circles they needed.
About half of the respondents didn’t know the first names of more than one or two of their neighbours. The figures were similar when broken down by higher and lower income groups.
But WWZ found that people living in poverty were also lacking other networks. “People living below the poverty line really struggle with socialisation,” said spokesperson Rebecca Thys. “It’s rare that any of them have family to go to for help or care when they need it.”
Both physical and mental wellbeing depends on these social networks, she said, so consequences of isolation can be dire. Some respondents told her that they were too embarrassed to take part in any kind of social activities because they had no money to spend.
The interviews revealed that contact with professional caregivers and therapists had a very positive effect on people. The government’s plan of action, said Thys, is ‘societal care’, meaning it’s better for mentally and physically vulnerable people to live within the society rather than in an institution.
“But if there are no people around them – neighbours, friends or family – then it’s pretty difficult to call that care by ‘society’.”
Photo courtesy N-VA