Swedish City Tackles Loneliness Epidemic with a Simple ‘Hello’



In an effort to combat loneliness, a city in northern Sweden has launched a heartwarming initiative encouraging residents to greet each other with a simple “hello.” Published on Nov. 21, 2023, the story sheds light on how the sun-starved city of Luleå is addressing the prevalent issue of loneliness epidemic, particularly among the younger population.

The Loneliness Epidemic Challenge in Sweden

The article begins by highlighting the increasing concern of loneliness worldwide, exacerbated by post-pandemic challenges. The World Health Organization’s recognition of loneliness as a “pressing health threat” sets the backdrop for the city of Luleå’s innovative approach to tackle this issue.

The piece emphasizes the uniqueness of Sweden’s situation, attributing cultural factors and the impact of seasonal affective disorder to the city’s struggle with isolation.

The University of Sydney’s Research Context

Integrating relevant information from the University of Sydney’s recent study on mental health challenges, the article draws parallels between the global loneliness epidemic and Sweden’s specific scenario. The research findings contribute to the narrative, showcasing a global trend in declining mental health, especially among the younger generation.

Luleå’s ‘Säg hej!’ Initiative

The article delves into the “Säg hej!” (say hello) campaign initiated by Åsa Koski, a city official in Luleå. Faced with increasing loneliness, the city introduces a straightforward yet impactful solution: encouraging residents to greet each other warmly with a simple “hej.” This initiative is particularly important in a city where darkness prevails for much of the day during winter, contributing to seasonal affective disorder.

Impact on Young Residents and Cultural Shift

By incorporating testimonials from residents, the article provides a nuanced perspective on the impact of the “Säg hej!” mission. Young people aged 16-29, in particular, face challenges related to loneliness, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating fears of contact with strangers.

The report emphasizes the cultural acceptance of isolation in Sweden and aims to explore the potential positive shift that a friendly “hej” could bring to the community.

The narrative unfolds as it details the practical implementation of the “Säg hej!” mission, including advertising on buses and workshops in schools. Åsa Koski expresses the city’s broader goals, not only for growth but also to create a friendly, safe, and culturally rich environment. The article underscores the research-backed impact of simple greetings on mental health, fostering a sense of belonging and community.

Incorporating perspectives from residents like Seyed Mohsen Hashemi and Mee Young Yim, who share personal experiences and thoughts on the campaign, the article humanizes the initiative.

It explores the initially reserved nature of Luleå’s residents, acknowledging the potential time required for the community to fully embrace the change. However, the positive impact of saying “hi” to neighbors is highlighted, showcasing the potential benefits beyond mere social interactions.

As the article concludes, it addresses the potential challenges and the optimism expressed by locals like Pontus Wikström. The final section emphasizes the profound impact a simple greeting can have on community well-being, fostering happiness and connection.

It closes by recognizing the potential of “Säg hej!” to create a positive cultural shift in Luleå, combating loneliness and building a stronger, friendlier community.


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