One of the most defining aspects of the millennial life is our digital connectivity. We are the generation of social media, of vast networks of friends communicating, sharing memes and in-jokes, and posting selfies of ourselves living our #bestlives. But there is a darker side to this story. Millennials report higher rates of loneliness, fewer close friends, and around 20-25% said that they don't have anyfriends.
Loneliness is dangerous. It's castastrophic for mental health, and it turns out that loneliness is more dangerous than obesity.
From the YouGov Survey:
Millennials are also more likely than older generations to report that they have no acquaintances (25% of Millennials say this is the case), no friends (22%), no close friends (27%), and no best friends (30%).
It's tough to pinpoint exactly what's causing this sense of isolation, though previous studies have suggested that social media has increased this sense of disconnect. People compare their lives to the images people share and it makes them feel depressed and isolated.
It’s not all bad though. While it’s clear young adulthood can exacerbate loneliness -- it’s a time where external factors like moving away, career progression and the decision to settle down with a partner can all make maintaining friendships more difficult -- it’s also clear that we haven’t given up on making new friends. Nearly half of YouGov’s surveyed millennials said they’d made a friend at work in the past six months, with 76 percent saying they’d managed to make at least one friend through work or their local community.
But there are ways to overcome loneliness. An article on loneliness from Psychology Today has some advice on defeating toxic thinking.
That means catching on to our critical inner voice and recognizing it as an external enemy rather than accepting it as our real point of view. It means responding to this voice with a more realistic, positive, and compassionate outlook. Finally, it means taking active steps to IGNORE its directives. This can be something as simple as taking a walk through our neighborhood, making eye contact or saying hello to someone we encounter. It can be a practice of asking a co-worker about themselves, meeting up with a friend, or making real time to talk to our partner.
Ignoring our inner critic and seeking connection is not only crucial to the quality of our lives, but new research shows relationships can also help us live longer. These relationships extend beyond our significant other and immediate family to include our friends and the community we create around ourselves. One study from Australia showed that strong social networks may lengthen survival in elderly men and women, and that good friends are even more likely to increase longevity than close family members.