Loneliness And The Young
Being a 20-something can be intense. You can feel like you’re in a state of constant anxiety-ridden flux, trapped in a dark place and pretty lonely at times. And sometimes these feelings can lead to mental health issues. There’s no way to describe how anxiety, depression and loneliness truly feel, so we won’t try. We can, however, seek some sort of comfort in the fact that mental health issues in young adults are finally being taken out of the dark and put into the spotlight.
This article will focus on one of the most rife issues of our time, loneliness.
Here are 4 tough facts about teenagers and young adults and their mental health:
A US YouGov report found that 30% of Millennials always or frequently feel lonely. And loneliness is likely to increase risk of death by 29% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015.)
Next to depression, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in young people.
Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. That’s someone every 40 seconds (World Health Organisation (WHO). And suicide is the largest cause of death for people under 35. (Papyrus, 2018)
Mental health issues in young adults are undoubtedly a serious problem. With growing pressures from all angles of society, it’s no wonder that this is one of the biggest epidemics of our time. What’s one of the worst mental health issues which is rarely spoken about when it comes to young adults? The crushing effects of loneliness.
Loneliness And The Young
We often associate loneliness with the elderly but more and more studies are showing that lonely young adults are everywhere in the world, including the US and the UK.
What do we mean by loneliness?
Loneliness can feel like many things, for example feeling isolated and disconnected emotionally and physically. Not having a support network, friends or family you can connect with or having those things and feeling disconnected from them can also be a cause of feeling lonely and isolated.
What can cause loneliness?
- A relationship break up
- Isolation in your job
- Moving somewhere new
- A past experience
- Lack of friendships
- Single parenthood
- Feeling distant and disconnected from your partner
A Cambridge University study by Timothy Matthews et al., Lonely young adults in modern Britain: findings from an epidemiological cohort study found, “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.” It seems that being lonely can result in a downward spiral for teens and young adults.
What can science teach us about coping with loneliness?
A meta analysis of loneliness by Christopher M. Masi of the University of Chicago looked at how, “social and demographic trends are placing an increasing number of adults at risk for loneliness.” They reported on the 4 primary intervention strategies identified to help support those affected by loneliness which are as follows:
- Improving social skills
- Enhancing social support
- Increasing opportunities for social contact
- Addressing maladaptive social cognition.
Masi et al., examined data from independent studies on the subject of loneliness to pinpoint the best way to reduce it. “Among studies… the most successful interventions addressed maladaptive social cognition (behaviors that hinder your ability to adapt to certain situations).” They found that interventions that changed maladaptive thinking patterns were around 4 times more effective at helping with loneliness than the other listed interventions.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) seems to be one of the top forms of interventions when it comes to changing maladaptive thinking.
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?
Mental health charity Mind describes CBT as:
“CBT is based on the idea that the way we think about situations can affect the way we feel and behave. For example, if you interpret a situation negatively then you might experience negative emotions as a result, and those bad feelings might then lead you to behave in a certain way… In CBT you work with a therapist to identify and challenge any negative thinking patterns and behaviour which may be causing you difficulties. In turn, this can change the way you feel about situations, and enable you to change your behaviour in the future.”
Loneliness and other mental health issues are a serious issue in 2019 and the more we learn about them, the more we can do to help ourselves, those around us and potentially find a bit of relief and light along the way.
Here are a few contact details if you or someone you know need help, advice or support:
Please contact the emergency services if you feel you are in crises: 999 (UK) 911 (US)
Mind (UK charity)
Mind contact: 0300 123 3393
Campaign to End Loneliness (UK charity)
Samaritans (UK charity)
Samaritans contact: 116 123
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) (US charity)
NAMI contact: 800-950-6264
Mental Health America
Mental Health America contact: 1-800-273-TALK