People want to know, why are young adults lonely? Today’s youth face many challenges that older generations didn’t have to contend with. Increasing technologies means that today, we are seeing higher connectivity rates, yet more people reportedly feel lonely.
In a research paper, Loneliness in America, psychologists Richard Weissbourd et al. reported that in a national survey of 950 Americans, 36% of the individuals surveyed said they felt lonely frequently almost all the time or all the time. According to them, “A startling 61% of young people aged 18-25 …reported these miserable degrees of loneliness”.
So why are young adults so lonely? The answer depends on the individual, the feeling of loneliness is subjective. According to Psychologist Dr. Sue Varma, this means that you can be socially isolated and not feel lonely, while others with many people around them may feel lonely. A summative answer would be that young adults live in a different time where technologies, social issues, and culture are overtaking their lives.
Also, many young people may be transitioning between dependence and independence. They are moving into their own homes for the first time, learning new things, taking up new responsibilities, struggling with financial pressures, and dealing with contemporary social norms. These factors can contribute to loneliness among young people.
Further, isolation has been linked to technology dependence, as many individuals choose to replace human relationships with their electronic buddies.
In this post, we will address why young adults are lonely, the consequences of loneliness, and what we can all do to address this problem in young adults.
A Few Statistics on the Topic, Why Are Young Adults Lonely?
If you’ve been feeling alone lately, chances are you aren’t the only one. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 1 in 5 Americans has experienced some form of mental illness at least once in their lifetime.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Youth Studies, nearly half (48%) of college students reported feeling lonely at least once a month. And while some were experiencing loneliness because of personal issues, such as relationship problems, others felt isolated due to the lack of friends.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young adults ages 18–25 are twice as likely to report having severe psychological distress compared with those 65 years old and older.
In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in ten Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 reported feeling lonely at least once a month. And while some of those feelings might be due to the stress of moving away from home, others could stem from a lack of support networks.
So, Why Are Young Adults Lonely? Top Reasons Follow:
Technology Is Making Us More Alone
As stated above, today, we are more connected to people worldwide. You can facetime individuals in any part of the world or communicate with others in many different ways. The thought of this is phenomenal, given that just a few short decades ago, the cell phone (which was not smart) and personal computers were a luxury. Today, we do just about everything on our cell phones, from working to banking and even socializing. We have games to keep us company and help expend time.
Disconnectivity With Parents
Most parents are so busy with work and life they don’t realize what struggles their young adults are going through. To worsen the situation, parents pressure young people based on goals they believe their young adults should achieve. This alienates them from their parents, making them more lonely as they lose the relationships that they grew up in.
Learn how to communicate better with young adults here.
Social Isolation Vs. Loneliness
When asking, Why Are Young Adults Lonely? Try to differentiate between social isolation and loneliness.
Dr. Sue Varma says that social isolation means you are intentional about the people around you or about being on your own. Feeling alone is very different from being alone. Being alone is very different from loneliness as some people can be around many people and still feel lonely. Quality of interaction is paramount here. People who try to reach out to others should be able to listen to them emphatically and connect with them, but most importantly, make them feel like you care about them and their issues.
Social Media Influence – They Don’t Feel That They Fit In
While social media gives you access to many people and allows you to share your own life and experiences, there is a negative side to these platforms. Social Media has been identified to make people feel bad about themselves, have low esteem, and feel like they are not worthy. Social media makes a considerable contribution to the reasons why young adults are lonely.
According to Kelly Skeen and Michelle Skeen, PsyD, authors of Just As You Are, “knowingly or unknowingly, you are comparing yourself to the images you see on your feeds every day” (Newharbinger.com). But no one posts their challenges, down days, or boring times. Instead, they share pictures that show off their perfect vacations, beautiful bodies, and all the amazing things they have done or own. Social media is not just a platform for information but a bragging media.
When young people get caught up in admiring the extraordinary life of all their friends on social media, how well everyone is doing, or start comparing themselves to other people’s posts, they are likely to get intimidated. They may isolate themselves or not want to socialize or talk about themselves because they feel they have nothing to offer. Even those who post great pictures on social media may isolate themselves to prevent everyone from discovering the truth about their everyday lives.
Incompatibility With The People Around Them
You may also ask, why are young adults lonely when they seem to have so many people around them.
Some young adults may have a lot of people around them, but they find they are incompatible and do not connect. Incompatibility could have to do with many issues such as different ideologies and cultures, intolerance, differences in intellect, or conflicting goals. Once people find out that others are very different, they may choose to either find some common ground or, more popularly, avoid that individual altogether.
Below Are 5 things You Can Do to Help Young Adults Feel Less Isolated
If you have picked up on the trend and are asking, Why Are Young Adults Lonely? Then it is great to know that there is something you can do for them. Young people today are more likely to be lonely than ever before, but not knowing what to do to help themselves or to help others who feel lonely is the challenge.
I recently came across a statement by psychologist Richard Weissbourd, which states, “If every person who’s in pretty good shape can make a commitment to reaching out to one person they are concerned might be lonely once a week, that would be a good thing.”
Knowing this, how do we reach out to at least one person weekly? How can we help our lonely young adults? Below we discuss five tips that continue to work today.
Try not to let young adults around you feel alone. It’s not surprising that young people are lonelier than ever before. Another statistics according to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in five teens say they feel alone almost every day. And while some of these feelings might stem from the everyday stresses of growing up, others are because young people spend more time online than ever before, as discussed above.
The researchers found that loneliness was most common among women, those who were single, and those who had recently moved off campus.
It is usual for lonely young people to feel that no one cares for them. But by being present, you can help them change this view. Being present does not mean just being there. You can take the time to listen empathically to them, help them solve problems, and let them know that you have their back.
Let Them Talk About Their Feelings
It’s normal for young people to feel lonely at times. However, loneliness can lead to severe consequences when it becomes an issue. Research shows that lonely young people often become depressed, anxious, and suicidal. They also tend to have lower self-esteem and perform worse academically.
When you are lonely, you typically have no one to talk to. This means that even if you are with a group of people, the young adult feels that no one wants (or cares enough) to listen to their problems. Show your support by empathically engaging with these young people and hearing them out.
Help Them Find Friendships and Encourage Them to Go Out and Have Fun
I recently asked a few young adults how they find friends. Most people had quick answers for me, like they find friends on Discord, Tinder, after-school programs, and so on. It is interesting when it seems that young adults do know where to go looking for friendships, but many don’t make an effort to follow through.
There may be strong reasons why a young adult may not make friends. We uncovered a few of these reasons when asking, Why Are Young Adults Lonely? The top reasons are that they may be shy, feel inadequate or unsure of themselves, have low self-esteem, or do not know how to interact appropriately with others.
Try to connect young adults to others by inviting them to social gatherings, parties, church, club events, and so on. If their problems present an issue that needs professional assistance, do not hesitate to get them help or contact someone that knows them, as research shows that loneliness leads to premature mortality.
Show Interest in Their Lives
You can make a big difference by showing interest in a young adult’s life. This includes calling them frequently, showing up at events to support them, asking questions about what they’re doing, listening to them talk about their friends, and being supportive.
As stated earlier, many young adults may feel like nobody cares about them and their issues if you are a parent to young adults, a mentor, or just someone that can help. Showing an interest in someone else’s life can help them through challenges like loneliness or social isolation.
Don’t Push Away Those Who Need you Most
If you are a support person for a young adult, whether you are a parent, friend, uncle, aunt, mentor, or in whatever capacity you support young people, you should not push them away. Young people, though they may not show it or ask for it, they need the people that have formed their support group. Learn to be patient with them; with maturity, young adults will also learn to appreciate you and support you.
A Few Final Words
This article has dealt in depth with the topic, Why Are Young Adults Lonely? And while I hope that the tips shared here are helpful to you, this article does not claim to cure any illnesses or conditions but is based on thorough research using resources on the internet. If you have a condition or feel that you need assistance in any way, please seek out a licensed professional that can assist you with those issues.