Pandemic loneliness is impacting young people, mothers at concerning rate

CBS4 This Morning

INDIANAPOLIS — Have you felt lonely during the pandemic?

If you have, you’re not alone.

A recent study from Harvard says 36% of all Americans, including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children, feel serious loneliness. The impact has increased substantially since the pandemic began.

Researchers said they’re most concerned with the spike in loneliness in young people, especially since reports of anxiety and depression have also increased.

Kendra Thomas, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Indianapolis, agrees the findings are concerning, but not exactly surprising.

“Even pandemic aside, young adulthood is a time of loneliness in life and trying to find that support system, transitioning support systems from family of origin to picking their family. And so, with the pandemic they have fewer avenues to do that natural exploration that they should be a part of. And it’s a lonelier time than you might expect. And it’s easily exacerbated by social media because of that fear of missing out, or that fear of being left out,” Thomas said.

Thomas says mothers of young children are another vulnerable group for loneliness. Even without the pandemic she points to the fact that raising young children can be a very isolating experience.

“it’s a very emotionally intense and time intensive job. So, it needs a lot of support. So I would say that’s a group that’s especially vulnerable to a lack of social support for very different reasons than young adults,” she said.  

So what can be done to help? Thomas says there are a few things, including recognizing the times you feel most lonely and making changes to turn those effects down. An example of that would be avoiding or limiting your exposure to social media which can often depict a false, unrealistic, or overexaggerated snapshot of what is happening in someone’s life.

She also says it’s important to reach out and continue to cultivate relationships in your life.  

See what kind of relationships are doing you them most good. Which ones are the healthiest?  Which ones do you want to invest in? Which takes us to the external routes of what could you do differently, there are safe ways to connect with people.,”

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