You’re not supposed to feel lonely while you’re young, but the truth is it’s a bigger concern among young people than any other age group.
In recent years youth loneliness and isolation has been increasingly identified as a matter of significant public concern. Research identifies that one in three young people suffer from loneliness (Red Cross, Co-op, Kantar, 2016) and 65% of 16-25 years old reporting feeling loneliness at times and 32% feeling lonely “often” or “all the time” (Majoribanks and Bradley, 2017).
“Loneliness is a recognised problem among the elderly – there are day centres and charities to help them,” says Sam Challis, an information manager at the mental health charity Mind, “but when young people reach 21 they’re too old for youth services.”
But what can young people do to combat loneliness?
While meditation techniques such as mindfulness and apps such as Headspace are trendy solutions frequently recommended for a range of mental health problems, they’re not necessarily helpful for loneliness, as they actively encourage us to dwell alone on our thoughts. You’re be better off addressing the underlying causes of being lonely first – what’s stopping you going out and seeing people?
Social media can be helpful. Helplines can also reduce loneliness, at least in the short term. One in four men who call the Samaritans mention loneliness or isolation, and Get Connected is a free confidential helpline for young people, where they can seek help with emotional and mental health issues often linked to loneliness. There are also support services on websites such as Mind’s that can remind you you’re not alone. Speak to your employer, value the interactions you have in the workplace. Counselling can be helpful. The BACP website allows you to search for counsellors in your area. “A problem aired is a problem shared and sometimes you need to talk to someone impartial and independent of your friends and family.
If recent research is to be believed, loneliness is killing the elderly and, with an ageing population, we should aim to reduce our isolation before it is too late. “Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting lonelier,” says Ruth Sutherland, the chief executive of Relate, in a new report. “But much of this rests on laying the foundations to good-quality relationships earlier in life.”