What’s Causing Loneliness in Young Adults?

Loneliness is becoming increasingly common among young adults today. Studies show that people under 30 report feeling lonely more often than older adults. There are several factors that may explain why so many young people struggle with loneliness.

Leaving Home

One major cause is that young adults are leaving home and family earlier. More 18-22 year olds are living independently than in past generations. Moving away from parents and siblings means losing day-to-day emotional connections and interactions with family. Young people living alone can feel isolated or disconnected in their new independence. Even those with roommates may not develop close friendships like the ones they had growing up.

Moving for Education or Work

Many young adults relocate to attend college or take a new job. They are separated from longtime friends and their community. Even when connecting with classmates or coworkers, relationships tend to be more superficial and less intimate. It takes time to establish social circles in a new place. The constant cycle of meeting new people and starting over can exacerbate loneliness.

Social Media Use

Though social media is meant to connect people, research indicates it may also contribute to feelings of loneliness. Young people today tend to communicate more online and less face-to-face. The connections made through screens are generally not as emotionally fulfilling as those made in person. Excessive social media use has been linked to increased loneliness and depression. Seeing the curated online lives of peers can also generate feelings of exclusion and isolation.

Delayed Marriage and Families

Young adults today get married and have children later in life than previous generations. Many do not have a significant other or children in their 20s. A spouse or child is a major source of companionship for many people. Without these relationships, young single adults can lack meaningful bonds and feel lonely. Even those in serious relationships may feel lonely if they are not ready for the commitment of marriage.

Weak Community Ties

Our communities today are less close-knit. Young people tend to be more transient and have weaker social ties in their neighborhood and city. In the past, social life revolved around community institutions like churches, schools and social clubs. But participation in these groups has declined. Without robust community connections, it can be difficult for young adults to access social interaction and support.

Focus on Independence

Modern culture emphasizes self-sufficiency and independence. There is a stigma around admitting loneliness. Young people believe they should be able to cope with challenges on their own without asking for help. Many convince themselves that needing companionship is a sign of weakness or failure. And so they do not reach out when they feel lonely or disconnected.

While periods of loneliness are normal, chronic isolation has real health effects. Recognition of the causes of loneliness is the first step toward addressing it. By reaching out to friends, joining community groups, and combating the stigma around loneliness, young people can gain meaningful connections and relationships. This will enable them to live happier, healthier lives in our often disconnected world.