In our hyper-connected world communicating with others is easier than ever before. But the digital revolution has not eradicated loneliness and despite younger generations being the most active on social networks, they are surprisingly vulnerable.
We recently conducted a study and found that 27 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds surveyed admitted feeling lonely most of the time, with almost one in four (24 per cent) in the same age group saying they have no one to talk to most of the time.
It’s perhaps startling that loneliness can strike during a stage in life when exciting changes are taking place. Embarking on a career, graduating from university, getting married or starting a family are all positive milestones.
However, these life-events can trigger loneliness. Young people find themselves moving away from family and friends to start their studies, or to get their foot on the first rung of the career ladder. In time, new friends can be made but being distanced from the comforts of home and the family support network, can prove challenging.
Transitional periods are often unsettling and young people may throw themselves into studies or work in order to cope with feelings of loneliness. However, this not only masks the issues at hand, it can also compound them, leading to a vicious circle that sees people isolating themselves further. This was reflected in our survey where 29 per cent of 18-24 year olds said they are too busy with work and family commitments to spend time with friends
Financial issues can also have an effect, with young people struggling to fund a social life while working in entry level jobs or undertaking part-time work while studying. A quarter of 18-24 year olds responding to our survey on loneliness said that they restrict socialising in the winter months due to finances.
Loneliness in the young is an issue that should be taken seriously, mostly because it is a somewhat hidden phenomenon. Young people may appear content, and the perceived excitement surrounding their lives can hide difficult realities.
There are practical steps that can be taken to combat loneliness, such as making the most of invitations, volunteering and getting involved with a hobby group. It is helpful for young people to look out for their peers and to reach out to anyone that might be showing signs of loneliness.
Sometimes, struggling with loneliness can be overwhelming and it’s important to ask for support. Just calling a family member or friend can help. If this isn’t possible, or is uncomfortable, contacting a helpline is a good option. No one needs to be alone.