Elderly and single have less social contact
Most Norwegians have a close confidant and at least two persons they can rely on if they experience personal problems, but the elderly and single persons more often lack such close relationships.
The survey on living conditions shows that most people are in contact with their friends and family at least once a month. While one in four see their parents less often than each month, only 5 per cent have little contact with their parents when including contact by telephone, e-mail etc. The levels are stable compared to the last survey, which was conducted in 2012. Nine per cent report that they have little contact with friends, which is somewhat higher than the levels reported in the last survey. Six per cent have little contact with friends by telephone, e-mail etc., and this has not changed since the last survey.
Most people have someone to confide in
Only 3 per cent report that they do not have someone who is close to them who they can confide in. The elderly more often than younger people lack a confidant, but the disparities between age groups are fairly small. While 2 per cent of individuals aged 16-24 years lack someone to confide in, the corresponding share is 4 per cent among individuals aged 67 years or older. The size of networks also varies by age. Fifteen per cent in the age group 16-24 years report having two or fewer persons to rely on in the event of personal problems, compared with 31 per cent among individuals older than 66 years.
More men than women have few close relationships. This disparity is present in all age groups. Moreover, men have less contact with friends than women have, including when contact with friends by telephone and other media is taken into account. Men still have a close confidant almost as often as women.
Single people more often lack confidants, but see friends often
Single people more often than others lack someone to confide in, and particularly single people in the oldest age groups. Approximately one in ten men over the age of 44 do not have someone to confide in. Young single men also lack someone they can confide in more often than men who are married or cohabiting. At the same time, single men and women in the age group 25-44 have the same extent of contact with friends as persons who have a partner.
Elderly have less contact with friends than before
The proportion that have little contact with friends increases with age. This is the case both when comparing how often people see their friends and when comparing contact with friends by telephone or other media. Even though this pattern is similar to results from the last survey, the share of elderly who have little contact with friends has increased slightly over time. While 12 per cent of individuals aged 67 or older reported seeing friends less often than once a month in 2012, the proportion in 2015 is 17 per cent. The share of elderly people who have little contact with friends by telephone, e-mail or other media is almost as high. Sixteen per cent of people aged 67 years and older had this type of contact with friends less often than once a month in 2015.
Nonetheless, individuals who are 67 years or older see their children more often than younger parents of children who have left home: 10 per cent report having little contact with their own children, compared with 16 per cent of individuals in the age group 45-66 years and 27 per cent aged 25-44. Nevertheless, relatively few under the age of 45 have children aged 16 or older who have left home. There may be several reasons why older parents have more contact with their children. One explanation is that young parents have children who have left home to go to university, while older parents often have adult children who have settled close by. Another reason may be that older parents are in need of help from their children, or that they more often help out with grandchildren on a regular basis.
Young people see their friends frequently
Individuals in the age group 16-24 see their friends more frequently than those in older age groups, and they also have more contact with friends by telephone or other media. Only 2 per cent in this age group report seeing their friends less than once a month. Generally, there are only small disparities in the extent of contact with friends among young persons in different regions and areas of residence. However, young persons who live in densely populated areas more often report having few people they can rely on if they encounter personal problems. Seventeen per cent of those aged 16-24 who live in urban areas report having two or less people they can rely on in such cases, compared to 12 per cent in sparsely populated areas.
More parental contact in rural areas
Individuals in sparsely populated areas more often see their parents and siblings than individuals who live in urban areas. These figures include individuals who live with these family members. At the same time, individuals living in cities with 100 000 or more inhabitants have somewhat more contact with their parents by telephone, e-mail or other media compared with individuals living in sparsely populated areas. The amount of parental contact varies among regions. While the highest proportion with limited parental contact is found in Oslo and Akershus, the highest proportion with little contact with their children is found in Northern Norway. Agder and Rogaland is the region with the highest share that sees their friends and family often. This is also the region with the lowest proportion that lives alone.
More contact with neighbours in the north, least in Oslo and Akershus
Oslo and Akershus is the region with the lowest proportion of individuals who know their neighbours sufficiently well that they visit occasionally. Almost 40 per cent of inhabitants in this area report that they do not know their neighbours well, while the proportion in other regions ranges from 23 to 30 per cent. People in Northern Norway most often know their neighbours well. In addition, people living in Oslo and Akershus more often than people in other regions report that it is difficult to get help from neighbours when needed. Fifteen per cent in Oslo and Akershus find it difficult to get help from neighbours, compared with 10-12 per cent in other regions.
One in four live alone
Approximately one in four Norwegians live alone. The share that lives alone is highest among the elderly. Thirty-seven per cent of the over 66s live alone. A markedly higher proportion of elderly women than men live alone, but this gender disparity has declined in recent years. In 2015, 47 per cent of women older than 66 years lived alone, compared to 26 per cent of men in this age group. The proportion of elderly women living alone has declined by almost 10 percentage points since 1998, when the share was 55 per cent. The decline in the share of elderly women living alone is related to the increase in men’s life expectancy over the past years. Although elderly women more often than men live alone, they have a close confidant as often as elderly men.
Less contact with friends among persons with a low level of education…
In all age groups, those with only a primary level of education have less contact with friends than those with education at the secondary or tertiary level. Individuals with a low level of education also have less contact with friends by telephone and other media than those who have obtained higher education.
Persons with only primary education who have families, are more often in contact with these than individuals with higher levels of education. Nevertheless, those who have a low level of education more often lack a close confidant and have fewer persons they can rely on if they have personal problems than highly educated individuals. One reason for this may be that people with a low level of education more often than others live alone.
…and among individuals who are not employed or studying
The extent of social contact also varies by self-reported economic status. Old age pensioners, the disabled and the unemployed have less contact with friends than students and the employed. The unemployed also have less contact with their families, but this is not the case among the disabled and pensioners. Individuals who are not in the labour market are still more vulnerable in terms of networks: they more often live alone, more often lack a confidant, and they have fewer persons they can count on in the event of personal problems. Moreover, these groups more often than the employed report that others show little interest in what they do.