Young Americans may be the loneliest age group, even more lonely than those over 72, according to a study by insurer Cigna.
The national loneliness score overall was 44 on a 20-to-80 scale, but 18- to 24 year-olds surveyed reported loneliness scores of 48, while those 72 and older only had scores of around 39, USA Today reported.
About half of the respondents reported feeling lonely, Fortune said, while 54 percent said they feel like no one actually knows them well. Forty percent said they “lack companionship,” their “relationships aren’t meaningful,” and they feel “isolated by others.”
The study used the UCLA Loneliness Scale to measure and evaluate responses, Fortune reported.
Chief Executive of Cigna David Cordani said he was surprised by the results and noted that social isolation potentially affects health.
“There’s a blurred line between mental and physical health,“ Cordani told Fortune. “Oftentimes, medical symptoms present themselves and they’re correlated with mental, lifestyle issues like loneliness.”
Cigna cited a 2010 report stating that the health effect of loneliness was equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and was worse than obesity for health, USA Today reported. While a cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven, suicide rates among teens has increased in recent years.
Cordani said addressing loneliness can help solve other problems, USA Today reported. “If their sense of health and well-being is more positive, then less destructive activities transpire.”
Young people with higher rates of social media use reported nearly the same level of loneliness as those who barely use it, USA Today reported, suggesting that face-to-face and in-person interactions were more effective at dealing with loneliness.
“I have students who tell me they have 500 ‘friends,’ but when they’re in need, there’s no one,” health science professor at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, Jagdish Khubchandani said, adding that social media contact can lead to more physical isolation and weight gain that makes people more reluctant to seek face-to-face interaction, USA Today reported.
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