There has been lots of research about young people and loneliness over the last decade. In this article, we share some of the stats and facts from various different reports.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone if you feel lonely.
There is a lot of research that shows how many young people report feeling lonely and how often they feel this way:
- The Office for National Statistics in 2018 found that 9.8% of 16 – 24 year olds said that they were “often lonely”
- The Office for National Statistics in 2018 found that 11.3% of 10 – 15 year olds said that they were “often lonely”
- The Loneliness Experiment conducted by the BBC found that 40% of 16 – 24 year-olds said they feel lonely often or very often
- The Our Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic series by the Mental Health Foundation found that 38% of those in the 18-24 age range experienced loneliness in the past two weeks
The pandemic and loneliness
Research by the Mental Health Foundation throughout the pandemic (2020-21) found that the pandemic has been having a big impact on children and young people, with more time spent living under restrictions more people reported feeling lonely. The research found:
- 76% of young people have said not being able to see friends had a negative impact.
- 26% of respondents said their relationships with friends have got worse
NSPCC says the amount of counselling for loneliness provided by its Childline service has risen by 10% since the pandemic started.
Research conducted by the University of Edinburgh called Rural COVID Life also highlighted the impact of the pandemic on young people living in rural areas. Young people aged 18 – 29 living in rural areas were asked how lonely they were feeling and 32% answered that they felt lonely most or all of the time. In comparison, only 3% of those aged 70 – 79 felt lonely most or all of the time.
Research by Just Like Us conducted during the pandemic found that LGBT+ young people twice as likely to feel lonely and worry daily about mental health than their friends.
The causes of loneliness
There are many different reasons someone might feel lonely. A State of the Generation Report by the Mental Health Foundation found some of the reasons that young people report loneliness or poor mental health are:
- 29% of young adults say where they live has a negative effect on their mental health
- 27% of young people say they often feel they lack companionship
- 20% say they do not feel they have a trusted adult to go to for advice and support if they are experiencing a problem
Other causes may include:
- being bullied
- finding it hard to make friends
- moving house, schools, university or job
- losing someone close to you
- having an illness or disability
- the ending of a relationship or friendship.
Research by LGBT Youth Scotland found that 71% of LGBT young people experienced bullying in school on the grounds of being LGBT.
The impacts of loneliness
Research by the Mental Health Foundation found in 2018 found that more than half of 18-24 year olds experience depression when they feel lonely, with 42% saying it leads to anxiety. 67% say their mental health worsens as a result of feeling lonely.
The research also found that the stigma of loneliness remains the greatest barrier to getting help. With 46% saying they would be too embarrassed to talk about it and 52% feel they ought to cope with the problem themselves.
Loneliness can contribute to stress, anxiety, depression, paranoia and cognitive decline – and it can be both a cause and effect of other mental health problems.
The role of social media
“Social media is a much-debated topic regarding children and young people’s mental health. In the context of loneliness, the young people said that it could have a positive impact because of its ability to connect like-minded people without geographical constraints.” – Loneliness in young people – Mental Health Foundation
Research by the Mental Health Foundation found in 2018 that 30% of 18-24 year olds say social media is driving them to feel socially isolated .
Research by the charity found 82% of young people say that spending time face-to-face with others improves their mental health. In contrast, 30% say that technology, such as social media, is causing them to feel lonely as it has replaced face-to-face contact.
However, it’s also important to recognise the benefits of social media, particularly during the pandemic when many people used social media to stay connected to others, seek positive feedback and find support. Read Georgie’s story on Young Minds about how social media helped her feel less lonely during lockdown.
If you’re feeling lonely and need support, there are a range of organisations that can support you over the phone, e-mail, text and webchat. Visit our #AyeFeel page to find out more.