A new study from the BBC, called the Loneliness Experiment, has found that young people are often lonelier than their older counterparts.
The study, which surveyed 55 000 people online all over the world, revealed that young people are the loneliest age group, and it seems like it’s something that everybody goes through during that phase of their life.
According to the BBC study, while 27% of elderly people over 75 said they feel lonely often or very often, the percentage was the highest in a much younger age group. Forty percent of the 16 – 24 year old age group said they feel lonely which makes the notion that young people are supposed to be happier ring quite untrue.
It may be hard to point out exactly what is affecting all these people (circumstances differ after all), but report author Claudia Hammond doesn’t think it’s social media, which might seem like the easiest factor to blame.
She noted that all people surveyed were asked when in their lives they’d felt the loneliest, and many pointed to that same period of young adulthood, so it’s hard to blame this generation’s lack of happiness on Instagram and Snapchat, which didn’t exist when many study participants were younger.
Instead, Claudia thinks this “time of transition” could be the cause of all that loneliness. Graduating high school, going to college, starting a job, moving to a new place, figuring out who you’re going to be—that’s all really tough stuff, and it’s easy to feel lonely when you’re going through it.
“In addition to this, people aren’t accustomed to these feelings of loneliness and haven’t yet had the experience to know that they often pass, or to the chance to find ways to cope with those feelings, such as distracting themselves or looking for company,” Claudia wrote.
We spoke to Samuel Waumsley, a clinical psychologist from Cape Town about this issue too, and he agrees with Claudia’s sentiments. “It’s really not that surprising if we think about the fact of life change coming into adolescence and also being a young adult.”
Samuel points out that the time between 16 and 24 is when you are moving from late childhood and becoming an adult and with that come a lot of identity challenges and finding your place in the world. He says: “It’s when we really start processing any baggage we have and have to deal with conflict, social settings at school and university, as well as academics or beginning work. And in those challenges, I think some people might not have the support structure they need.”
And while, yes, we can say that social media also means that circumstances are different for a lot of people now and they have seemingly perfect lives displayed to them on the regular, it’s also important to note that people are going through their own struggles regardless of what they see on their Instagram feeds.
So if you’re feeling particularly lonely right now, have comfort in the fact that you’re not alone, but try and talk to someone about it.
If you need someone to talk to, but cannot afford a psychologist, here’s a list of free services around the country.
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