According to a new YouGov study, millennials are today’s loneliest generation. The research focused on a group of 1,200 American adults over the age of 18. Despite being viewed as the “social generation,” 30% of millennials reported that they always or often feel lonely. That’s compared to 20% of GenXers and just 15% of baby boomers.
And while 30% of millennials said they don’t have a best friend, 25% said they don’t even have acquaintances. None. Zero. How’s that for disheartening?
YouGov reports they didn’t directly research why millennials feel so lonely compared to their older counterparts. However, they did point to a University of Pennsylvania study published in December 2018 that named social media and the Internet as the culprits.
“Here’s the bottom line,” said Melissa G. Hunt, author of the U Penn study. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.”
Hunt’s research concludes that Americans with a diminished sense of wellbeing may start to feel better once they limit their social media use to 30 minutes per day. Hunt and her team surveyed 143 undergraduate students and found that the students who spent just half an hour a day on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat experienced far less loneliness and depression, compared to a control group.
In fact, the U Penn researchers found that the very state of being aware of screen time usage made the students feel better.
“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” said Hunt. “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
Studies have shown that loneliness can destroy a person’s physical health as well. People who are lonely are more likely to develop heart disease, have a stroke, and a weakened immune system. They may even have more difficulty recovering from major illnesses like cancer.
On the positive side, the YouGov study shows that millennials are still seeking out friendships: 38% of millennials said they made a new friend over the past six months.