In news that is depressing and yet not entirely surprising, a new survey of 20,000 Americans has revealed that young people are a lot more likely to report being lonely than senior citizens. For Gen Z (18 to 22), the score was in fact highest, with loneliness scores of around 48, while people over 72 were reporting a score of around 39. And even more drastically, it turns out that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.
The survey, undertaken by health insurers Cigna, is full of these fun facts. “How do you even get a loneliness score?” we hear you ask. It’s in fact based on the UCLA’s doomily named Loneliness Scale, obviously, which must have been fun to come up with. The study also reports that young people with the highest rates of social media use had the same feelings of loneliness as those who hardly used it at all. “Meaningful social interaction” was what made people feel better, said Cigna CEO David Cordani. That doesn’t seem to include sliding into someone’s DM’s, or looking at memes.
More than half of the Gen Z-ers polled ticked the boxes for ten of the 11 feelings associated with loneliness, while over 90% of people 72 and older said they felt “in tune with others.” If you’re wondering about the cigarette fact, it’s because being lonely makes you stressed, and being stressed leads to chronic inflammation. Even more fun.
The study does come up with ways to alleviate loneliness, however. They’re pretty obvious: sleep, spend time with family, exercise, and don’t work too much, which are all easy to recommend but harder to, you know, actually do. These activities all involve putting down your phone, even if the study doesn't explicitly conclude that social media is making us depressed. Your grandparents might not be able to send a text, but they’re not stressing themselves to death either.