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Why It's 'Unsurprising' That Many Millennials Admit They Have 'Zero Friends'

New research has revealed millennials are feeling lonely much more often than their gen X and baby boomer counterparts -- and many even admit to having no friends.

New data from international market research and data analytics firm YouGov found that while almost one in three millennials said they always or often felt lonely, just one in five members of generation X said the same.

Only 15 percent of baby boomers report feeling lonely with the same frequency.

The millennial generation (those aged 23 to 38) is often also referred to as the social media generation.

And it's this cohort that are most likely to report they have no acquaintances. In a survey of 1,254 Americans adults, 22 percent of young people said they had no friends.

"I think it's unsurprising, to be honest with you", Dr Michelle Lim who advises the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness told 10 daily.

IMAGE: Getty Images

While these years are traditionally thought of as the prime years of careers taking off travelling and starting families -- this poll and other recent research paints a different picture.

It's one of a hyper-digitally connected generation that is lacking deep and meaningful connections.

"Loneliness presents almost like a u-shaped distribution and it peaks at the end of life and the beginning of life and that's because the two faces are very much marked with social vulnerability and mental vulnerability whether its physical health or mental health," Lim, who is also a Clinical Psychologist at Swinburne University of Technology, said.

But Lim said loneliness is a continuum and humans are built to feel and deal with loneliness.

"Loneliness is not a bad thing, but what is bad is when you have chronic loneliness," she said.

Is Social Media Solely To Blame?

Not entirely.

In the first experimental study of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram use in late 2018, psychologists found a link between time spent on the platforms and decreased well-being.

So while the academics concluded that using less social media than you normally would lead to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness, it's not the only factor contributing to growing isolation.

"There are a range of factors like poverty, the resources a person a has, the mobility they have too," she said.

READ MORE: Being Lonely Can Give You A Cold And Make You Sick

Research from the UK found that people living in cities were more likely to feel lonely than those in regional and rural areas.

But adding to this burden is an unwillingness to share feelings of loneliness, with most survey respondents reporting to keeping these emotions to themselves as they did't want to 'burden others.'

VIEWS: What Your Virtual Friendships Are Doing To Your Real Ones

Lim said part of the solution involved working harder for your relationships.

"It's quite important for you to be direct and say I would like to have a coffee and catch up send direct signals."

Rearview shot of a man sitting at a bar counter

She suggested avoiding negative, closed-off body language and poor eye contact.

"If you do get knocked back after you reach out that's OK, its about trial and error and persistence and young people need to think about friendship as something requiring effort and requires resilience," Lim said.

What About A Broader Response To Chronic Loneliness?

In June this year, the British government launched Loneliness Awareness Week - a new campaign launched by the UK's recently-appointed Loneliness Minister. The goal of the campaign is to tackle the stigma of loneliness and encourage people to speak out.

READ MORE: The Internet Has Some Surprisingly Wholesome Places, Here's Where To Find Them

"We are far behind, in fact, the word loneliness -- with people in the UK they are more socialised and accepting of that words and its not a bad feeling to have, so let's talk about addressing it," she said.

‘We really don’t have good Australian studies, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now,  build the evidence about what actually drives loneliness in Australia,’ Lim said.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au