Loneliness, even though we don’t really talk about it, can affect anyone of any gender at any age and wherever they live. It’s not just elderly people – although this is clearly a big problem.
Now research is revealing how millennial loneliness is linked to major mental health problems, depression and even unemployment.
In a study from King’s College London, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, up to 7% of participants said they often had feelings of loneliness, with 23-31% of participants saying they experienced feeling left out, alone, isolated or lacking in companionship some of the time. The results were the same regardless of gender or socioeconomic status.
“If somebody discloses to their friends or family, or a GP, that they feel lonely a lot of the time, that could be a warning sign that they are struggling in other areas of life,” said Dr Timothy Matthews, co-author of the study, according to The Guardian.
Among other findings, loneliness was also linked to increased smoking, being less active, over-use of mobiles and computers, low educational achievement and being less likely to talk about your problems with other people.
The researchers say in the study: “Lonelier young adults were more likely to experience mental health problems, to engage in physical health risk behaviours, and to use more negative strategies to cope with stress. They were less confident in their employment prospects and were more likely to be out of work.
“Lonelier young adults were, as children, more likely to have had mental health difficulties and to have experienced bullying and social isolation. Loneliness was evenly distributed across genders and socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Simon Gunning, CEO of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), told ShortList: “We know that social isolation is a growing problem, especially for men over 30, and it’s clear that community and friendships can have a hugely positive effect on our wellbeing. Building and maintaining connections with others can be genuinely lifesaving for men.
“The CALM website is full of useful stories, advice and information for anyone who may be having a tough time, while our free, anonymous and confidential helpline and webchat is open every day, 5pm-midnight, for anyone who needs support.”
This comes on the heels of another study that found young people have never been unhappier. The conclusion of this second Prince’s Trust survey is that government and society need to do a much better job of developing young people’s skills and in providing opportunities for them to progress in fulfilling, sustainable careers.
Nick Stace UK, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust, added: “Underpinning this should be commitments to initiatives that promote positive mental well-being that create a culture of openness and in which young people do not feel like they have to face their problems alone.”