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January 2019

Why Are Millennials So Lonely?

A survey on loneliness made headlines several months ago for what it revealed about the country’s youngest adults. The survey by Cigna included more than 20,000 Americans ages 18 and older. Results showed that members of the millennial generation (ages 23 to 37) and Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) reported feeling lonelier than older age groups.

Woman in winter coat walking in the woods

That surprised many people—but probably not loneliness researchers. Previous studies have also shown that young adults are particularly likely to say they feel lonely, In fact, the only age group that reports feeling lonelier is later old age (ages 80 and older).

Why might today’s young adults be lonelier than most? Generational differences in social media use may be part of the explanation. Studies suggest that relying too much on digital connections might make it harder to connect in the real world. Young people are more likely than older generations to use—and overuse—social media.

Loneliness is a health issue

You can spend time alone without being lonely. The key is whether you feel unhappy about the situation. Loneliness is a distressing sense that something is lacking in your social life.

Feeling lonely not only hurts emotionally. If it goes on for a long time, it can be harmful to your health. Loneliness has been linked to poor sleep and symptoms of depression. It also increases the risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.

How to feel more connected

These tips can help keep loneliness at bay:

  • Build new friendships. Enroll in a class. Or join a sports league or book club.

  • Strengthen existing bonds. Make a list of people you want to stay in regular contact with. If you need a nudge to get in touch, put recurring reminders on your calendar.

  • Look away from the screen. When spending time with family and friends, put away your phone as much as you can. Enjoy the pleasures of a face-to-face conversation.

 

Become a volunteer

Research shows that helping others can ease loneliness. You can find nonprofits that are seeking volunteers.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gonnella, Joseph, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/29/2018
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