At a first glance, it can be difficult to tell the difference between wanting to be alone versus loneliness. When we spend a long time in the company of others, we may need some time by ourselves to recharge (this is a defining trait for introverts, but isn’t just limited to them). By being alone, we can do whatever we want without judgment, nor do we have to feel compelled to encourage and continue a conversation.
Loneliness, however, has a darker definition. While choosing to be alone can feel necessary and at times therapeutic, loneliness lacks having that choice. For whatever reason, loneliness means that the option to socialize isn’t even there, and it comes with feeling that there is no one there for you, when it’s something you may want the most.
Studies recently have shown that there has been a spike in the number of adolescents who feel lonely, with American young adults being more likely to feel isolated compared to senior citizens. The same article reflecting on the the study makes a note that isolation can lead to stress, which can cause a biological response, and in its most extreme cases, can lead to an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
There can be a number of reasons as to why adolescents feel lonely, especially in recent years. Some may be quick to assume that social media is a major reason as to why teenagers feel so alone, from FOMO to the lack of face-to-face interaction, but an interview with British teenagers about the topic say that it’s more than that. In fact, they explain that it may have to do with the perception of the current generation in the eyes of older ones. Teenagers can often feel belittled by their elders and have their problems dismissed, and constant rejection due to the pressure to meet increased standards may have adolescents feel like they are not wanted and have no worth.
Teenagers also explain that they feel that their parents don’t really have an interest in how they’re feeling, and therefore are driving them further away. While this goes against the stereotype that parents are too in-your-face to teenagers, that same stereotype may cause parents to want to do the opposite, having them play less of a role. And while individuality is an important part of adolescence, with teenagers using the time to find out who they are without the help of anyone else, it’s still important that there is some sort of support during the process.
Of course, the reasons for adolescent loneliness are not limited to these few reasons, but it is still significant that the number of adolescents feeling lonely has increased. Though overwhelming and draining, there are still ways to fight it.
What do you think are reasons as to why teenagers now are feeling lonelier than ever? What do you think can be done to combat loneliness?