In the age of social media, it is said that we are more connected than ever. However, research suggests that during adolescence loneliness peaks. Up to 80% of young people feel lonely at times, and a third describe these feelings as ‘persistent and painful’.
42nd Street, a Manchester-based young people’s mental health charity, and Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Childhood, Youth and Community devised a project to help understand and spark a conversation surrounding youth loneliness. They aim to move away from the simple observations that there is a problem and instead gain a deeper understanding of the causes of youth loneliness – from young people themselves. Their research has raised awareness of other causes of loneliness, including a lack of money to go out with friends, and replacement of face-to-face socialisation with online messaging.
The project will be led by 12 peer researchers, aged 14-25, speaking to 180 young people from different backgrounds about their experiences of loneliness. It aims to gain more understanding of these people’s needs so that better support can be given.
Loneliness in adolescence may be due to major physical and emotional changes, as well as a change in a young person’s social group, shifting from parents to friends. Puberty causes drastic changes in the body which may cause self-consciousness; which again may cause young people to isolate themselves from friends and family.
Furthermore, loneliness is also common in young people over 18, as at this age many changes occur. This includes moving on to higher education, seeking employment, and moving away from home, all of which involve a change of social group.
So what can we do to help? A deeper understanding of youth loneliness will hopefully help to tackle the issue head-on. And with increased awareness, initiatives can be put in place to support those at risk of becoming lonely and isolated. Even small things can be done yourself to help prevent youth loneliness, whether this is arranging a group activity to introduce your more reserved friends to new people, or even just checking up on someone who you know has moved away from friends and family. Be conscientious, wear a smile, and just be friendly.
For more information or support surrounding loneliness visit http://www.mind.org.uk/.