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The Lonely Generation


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Do you ever feel disconnected from the people around you? Do you feel withdrawn or feel that you lack meaningful relationships? You are not alone. A new nationwide survey from the health insurance provider Cigna finds that nearly half of Americans suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation.

But it’s not the retired or elderly that are the most lonely. It’s Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) and Millennials (adults ages 23-37) that scored higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale than the average American.

The study also found that social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness. So what is attributing to this loneliness?

This week on Noon Edition, our panelists discussed loneliness among young adults in America.


Amy Gonzales: Associate Professor, IU Media School, Bloomington, IN

Julianne Holt-Lunstad: Professor of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Nancy Stockton: Director of IU Counseling and Psychological Services, Bloomington, IN

Conversation: The Lonely Generation

The survey found that students were one of the loneliest groups compared to retired or employed adults.

IU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Director Nancy Stockton says this does not surprise her.

“I would estimate that maybe 40 and 50 percent of CAPS clients, students who use CAPS, are troubled to some degree by loneliness, that loneliness is at least part of the reason that brings them to CAPS,” Stockton says.

Social media technology is often to as one of the culprits of feelings of loneliness in younger generations. However, IU Media School Assistant Professor Amy Gonzales says it’s still too soon to understand the long term effects of this technology because it is too new.

“I don’t think the dust has settled on what it even means to even use a smartphone,” Gonzales says. “I imagine what TV consumption looked like five years after television reached a saturation point, and I’m guessing it was very different than the way people relate to TV today.”

Loneliness has been observed to have the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.

However, psychologist Julianne Holt-Lundstad says this public health hazard, like others, is complicated.

“There’s not going to be a simple solution. We know the cause of loneliness is not the same for everyone because loneliness is a subjective experience.”


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