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Loneliness is a curve, and it's not good news for young people

Alone or poorly accompanied


Young people, immersed in the midst of a thousand stimuli, perhaps the richest ever, but never so lonely. And never so soon, according to science.

A dangerous curve

Indeed, in a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science - and also covered by the New York Times - researchers found that loneliness follows a "U-shaped" curve: the peak of this feeling is not only reached at old age, as one might think, but also during youth.

Loneliness would then tend to decrease as one approaches middle age, accomplice to greater family and work stability, to increase again after age 60, when the friendship network becomes rarer, becoming particularly pronounced around age 80.

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The study actually had already collected several findings lately. Chief among them was a 2021 analysis by the American Perspectives Survey that found that since the 1990s the percentage of people claiming to have no close friends has increased fivefold.

Friendship recession

The name that has been given to this trend in the United States is friendship recession: a withdrawal from in-person meetings and deep relationships, another consequence of the unholy combination of pandemic, digital revolution and remote work.

And while it may sometimes be physiological to cut off "deadwood" among one's contacts or to choose to favor some friendships over others, what is happening appears to be a self-imposed isolation in which superficial relationships, often behind a screen, become all we think we need.

Moreover, it is now well established that teenage loneliness these days has increased in tandem with the use (or abuse) of the Internet and smartphones.

So what to do about it?

Although it is not simple, it is needed at the very least to "go out and touch the grass," to use a very popular phrase on social media to refer to those who never disconnect from the net, as if they constantly live in a big bubble.

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It is not easy, however, because when people feel lonely, they often wait for others to contact them and ask to see each other. Taking the initiative is difficult. Especially since the younger generation uses the phone constantly, but no longer to call someone. Rather to gather emotions through reels and likes.

Participate and share

To try to bend this curve, experts advise if possible to keep engaged through group activities, volunteering and shared hobbies.

Above all, as psychologists explain in the case of anxiety, it would be important to become aware that you are not alone in feeling lonely.



Illustration by Gloria Dozio - Acrimònia Studios