This article originally appeared on i-D UK.
Loneliness is a silent killer. In fact, research published last year found that it can be seriously detrimental to our mental and physical health--as harmful to our bodies as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Despite the fact we’re all constantly connected to each other online, new research from YouGov has uncovered that millennials are in fact the loneliest generation today. The study, which spoke to over 1,200 adults aged 18 and over in the United States, found a concerning amount of isolation. 30 percent of millennials surveyed said they always or often felt lonely, compared to just 15 percent of baby boomers and 20 percent of Gen X. Basically, our parents have more active social lives than we do.
Even more worryingly, a quarter of millennials say that they have no acquaintances, 22 percent say that have no close friends, and 30 percent have no best friends. The research also delved into the reasoning behind this situation--respondents talked about the difficulties they faced making friends, which ranged from shyness to a lack of hobbies and interests that can facilitate friendships. Over a quarter (27 percent) even said that they “didn’t need friends."
While social media has connected us more than ever, the personas we’re creating for ourselves on Instagram and Facebook are hiding the fact that we’re more alone than our brunch selfies would suggest. YouGov didn’t identify a single determining factor for the millennial loneliness epidemic, but they did identify a link to social media, citing a study from the University of Pennsylvania that found a link between social media use and decreased wellbeing, marked by increased levels of both depression and loneliness. Instagram’s link to poor mental health has been particularly well-documented, so much so that the app is now beta testing the dramatic step of removing visible post likes altogether in an attempt to eradicate the posturing, competitive nature of sharing.
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.
And many of us manage to hold on to our childhood connections too. Six in 10 Americans surveyed said they’re still close to at least one school friend, and 34 percent are still friends with people they met in college. But even so, the news is depressing. If there’s one good thing to come out of the research, it’s that it can be a sign that we all need to log out of Instagram and see each other IRL a little more.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.