The issue of loneliness is associated with the older generation, with the image of an older person isolated by themselves at home. While this is an issue within society, research has shown that the feeling of loneliness is more prevalent in the young. 10% of 16 to 24 years olds report feeling lonely, three times more than those 65 and over. With youth so often associated with an active social life this may come as a surprise to many. But what’s causing the younger generation to feel lonely?
The Young Having a Lower Resilience to Being Alone
One area that may contribute to the greater prevalence of loneliness within the young is the lower resilience to spending extended periods by themselves. The research conducted suggested that older individuals were able to handle and process being alone better than those who were much younger. The exact reason for this is undiscovered, but there are some theories.
One theory about the lower resilience of the young is that it could be down to a lower level of comfort and confidence with themselves. A less defined sense of identity or harsher level of self-criticism about their faults may lead younger people to blame themselves, even if being alone is no fault of their own. This could amplify the feeling of loneliness or result in self-isolation, further exacerbating the issue. In contrast, an older person has had time to form their character and become comfortable with their own qualities, leaving them better prepared to handle being alone.
The Impact of Social Media
The more fragile self-confidence of younger people may well be influenced by the general hurdles of being a young adult, but the omnipresence of social media may also have large impact on this. The constant images of people having an idyllic social life may make another person feel left out and inadequate. When combined with the struggle of finding a sense of identity – as most young people do – it can seem perfectly plausible that loneliness would be exacerbated.
The Young Are More Likely to Report Loneliness
Another area that may have influenced the large amount of young people feeling lonely is that the young are more likely to report it. This could be down to a greater sense of feeling alone, or even due to greater numbers being alone. However, it may be more likely to be influenced by generational differences.
The idea of openly sharing negative feelings is contradictory to the way many within the older generation were raised. The ‘stiff upper lip’ perspective is one that has become less prevalent within the current generation of 16-24 years olds. This could well have influenced the findings of the research. However, this is just one possible influencer.
The reasons for loneliness being more prevalent in the young are no doubt complex, making the solution no less complicated. Whether or not that solution is discovered remains to be see, but for the time being if you know someone who is lonely – no matter their age – consider taking some time out of your day to see how they are.