The Facts About Loneliness in Young People

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Why is loneliness in young adults so prevalent today? Recent research shows that experiencing loneliness in your 20s is near the top of the list of challenges for both Generation Z and millennials. Despite all the latest communication technologies, the relationship between loneliness and young people is growing stronger as many young adults feel a growing sense of isolation.

Although society is more connected than ever before by social media and mobile devices, today’s young people lack the intimacy of face-to-face human interaction—what they call IRL (in real life). As a result, there is a heightened level of isolation and young adults are looking for an understanding of how to overcome loneliness and depression.

Ironically, research on the behavior of these plugged-in generations reveals that technology is a big part of the problem. Indeed, many researchers and mental health professionals believe that the ubiquitous nature of social media and the constant availability of online communication lie at the root of the issue. It seems that virtual connections are preventing more authentic IRL connections.

The UCLA Loneliness Scale and Statistics on Loneliness

The UCLA Loneliness Scale is a widely used monitoring survey that has garnered valuable insight about how often a person feels disconnected from others using a 4-point rating scale. People who have higher scores on the UCLA Loneliness Scale tend to have more issues within their friendships and romantic relationships, suffer from physical inactivity, and a higher chance of employment problems, Further, a January 2020 CNBC article concluded that loneliness is on the rise and noted some recent statistics on loneliness.

  • 73 percent of Generation Z sometimes or always feel alone.
  • 71 percent of heavy social media users reported feelings of loneliness.
  • 73 percent of Generation Z sometimes or always feel alone.
  • 71 percent of heavy social media users reported feelings of loneliness.

In addition, a 2020 Cigna study which surveyed 10,000 adults across the United States, also found that loneliness was at epidemic levels. Below are some of the statistics from the study.

71 percent

of millenials are lonely.

50 percent

of baby boomers are lonely.

46.1 percent

of men are feeling lonely compared to 45.3 percent of women.

When compared to previous generations like the baby boomers, Generation Z and millennials are the loneliest generations in today’s world. Consequently, loneliness in young adults can exacerbate or be a catalyst for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, which in turn leads to more loneliness. That’s because the symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as low self-esteem and low energy, often prevent people from reaching out to others and engaging in social activities.

Depression and Anxiety Treatment at Newport Institute

Newport follows a comprehensive, integrated approach to treating depression and anxiety, in addition to other mental health and co-occurring disorders. Their evidence-based healing treatment incorporates clinical, therapeutic, and holistic methods. As a result, Newport treats the whole individual, with a sense of compassion, understanding, and unconditional love.

Jamison Monroe, Jr., Founder and Executive Chairman of Newport Healthcare, founded Newport Institute to give young adults that are struggling the support that they need, he reflects on his own personal experience with loneliness in your 20s, “If I had to give one piece of advice for my 22 year old self, and things were fairly dark when I was 22, it would certainly be that you are not alone.”

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The Health Risks of Feeling Lonely and Depressed

Recent studies by several academic and professional institutions illustrate the dangers of loneliness and young people. The health risks of loneliness include the following:

  1. A 2015 American Psychological Association study reveals that loneliness and social isolation increase the chances of premature death by up to 50 percent.
  2. The 2020 Cigna study reveals that half of the young people who rarely have real-life interactions are in fair to poor overall health.
  3. Loneliness leads to mental health challenges, like depression and anxiety.
  4. According to a 2019 study by the CDC, the suicide rate for Generation Z increased by more than 50 percent between 2007 and 2017.
  5. Health Resources and Services Administration researchers say that loneliness and social isolation is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Given such health risks, experts are working to better understand the causes of loneliness in these generations. Why do so many young people feel so lonely?

Causes of Loneliness in Generation Z and Millennials

According to a recent survey, young people report the following causes of loneliness:

  1. 53 percent say they are too shy and introverted to connect with others
  2. 27 percent say they don’t really feel like they need friends
  3. 26 percent say their hobbies or interests don’t facilitate friendships
  4. 20 percent say that friendships are too much work
  5. 19 percent say that the place they live has the wrong type of people
  6. 14 percent say they are too busy for friendships
  7. 11 percent say they recently moved and have had trouble finding new friends.

Young people don’t tend to cite digital overuse as a cause of loneliness, as they typically think of their phones and social media apps as ways to stay in touch. However, many researchers believe that a primary cause of loneliness might be the device that they are rarely without.

But social media and other digital activity aren’t the only culprits: Studies show that people today spend less time attending church, volunteering, being social at work, and getting together with neighbors. Moreover, families are smaller, meaning that young people have fewer siblings to help ward off loneliness.

Loneliness and Young People: The Impact of Social Media

A young adult might have thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and yet still experience painful isolation in real life. A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study states that there are greater feelings of loneliness among people who use social media more frequently. Thus, staring at their mobile devices rather than interacting with other human beings may increase loneliness in your 20s and beyond.

In addition, social media use increases FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), leaving young adults feeling even more isolated. As child psychologist Melissa Sporn told USA Today, “Online activities hits us twice, once as a distraction and/or substitution for real social interaction, and then again as a representation via social media of all the things we aren’t doing and should be engaged in, thus leaving us feeling lonely.”

5 Ways to Reduce Loneliness and Depression

There are proven ways to reduce loneliness in your 20s. Here are a few strategies for young adults to try:

  • Limit social media use. A 2018 Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology article revealed that cutting down usage of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat led to “significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group.”
  • Spend time volunteering. Research shows that doing things for others offers mental and physical health benefits.
  • Cultivate authentic connections. Real-life friendships may need a bit more tending to than virtual ones, but the payoff will be worth it in terms of counteracting loneliness.
  • Get involved. Connect with others by doing things you enjoy. For example, take a dance or art class, join a hiking club, or get involved with a campaign for a cause you care about.
  • Visit a therapist. Working with a mental health professional can help young adults pinpoint causes of loneliness.

Successful Treatment Outcomes at Newport

At Newport Institute, we are dedicated to long-term, sustainable healing. As founder Jamison Monroe, Jr. states,

It is our mission, to provide the most comprehensive, impactful treatment for teens and young adults to sustain long-term recovery. We enable young people to move out of the darkness and into the light, into happy, fulfilling lives.”

As a result, we take the success of our young people very seriously, which is evident in our positive treatment outcomes. Since our founding, we’ve achieved an 85% success rate of teens completing the Newport programs. In addition, Newport tracks 15 different treatment goals regarding family, academics, and overall behavior.

Through data gathering, we have proved that young people experience significant decreases in feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety during treatment at Newport. These levels continue to decrease for three to six months upon discharge from the program.

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If you think you or a loved one is in need of a therapist to talk through these feelings of loneliness, contact us to discover a path to change. Newport Academy offer a comprehensive approach to teen rehab for teens ages 12-18. Further, Newport Institute is a treatment program from Newport Academy that now offers services to young adults ages 18-27.

The team of clinicians at Newport have been treating teens with depression, anxiety, trauma, eating disorders, and substance abuse for over ten years. We believe it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to help you or a loved one make manageable lifestyle changes that will cultivate authentic connections, allowing teens and young adults to thrive. The path forward requires support, and whether or not Newport is the right fit for you or your loved one, our commitment is to help you find happiness that will last a lifetime. We encourage you to browse our website or call us 877-959-0904. We’re here 24 hours, 7 days a week.

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