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Did you know that migrants who speak the local language are more integrated and less lonely?

April 2020

Social relationships are important factors of subjective well-being, because a perceived lack of social integration often goes hand in hand with loneliness. So far, only a few empirical studies have described the maintenance of transnational social relationships among immigrants. In a recent article, ISS researcher Lea Ellwardt and her colleague Maja Djundeva from the Erasmus University Rotterdam examined the social support networks of Polish migrants in the Netherlands. The researchers were also interested in which migrants reported increased loneliness. For this purpose, they evaluated survey data of more than 1,000 Poles who immigrated to the Netherlands. They identified five different types of support networks, consisting of local and transnational contacts with kin and non-kin. Migrants with rather small networks consisting mainly of kin were at greatest risk of loneliness. A key predictor of maintaining non-kin contacts in the host country (in this case the Netherlands) was proficiency of the local language (Dutch). The researchers conclude that learning the host country’s language can be beneficial in terms of greater integration in local networks and reduced risk of loneliness.