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One Out Of Four Millennials Has No Friends Study Suggests

Paddy Clarke 5 Dec 2019

A new study has uncovered that millennials are the loneliest generation, after results of a shocking survey were published online.

Loneliness can have a large detrimental effect on people's health.

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In fact, loneliness is fast being considered to have such a negative effect on a person's health that it "rivals obesity [and] smoking as health risk", according to the Cigna study.

Loneliness can have not only an adverse effect on your mental wellbeing but on your physical health also.

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The study was aimed at millennials, Gen-X, and baby boomers.

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Of the three, the YouGov poll found that millennials were by far the most lonely when compared to the other two generations in the study.

30% of millennials said that they feel lonely all of the time or most of the time; whereas, only 20% of the Generation X members said that they felt this way, and only 15% of baby boomers said that they felt lonely a high percentage of the time.

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When asked, 22% of Millennials said they had zero friends.

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Only 9% of baby boomers said that they had "zero friends", while 16% of Gen X described themselves as having zero friends — which is indeed higher, but nowhere near as high as the millennials.

However, what was perhaps most shocking was the fact that 25% of millennials claimed that they had zero acquaintances! This figure was below 15% for both of the other generations.

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Social media has been largely blamed for the study's findings.

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In a time when we are more connected than ever before, it should seem strange that millennials should be so lonely. However, the heavy dependence on social media and forms of communication which are based upon screens as opposed to genuine human interaction throws up potential problems for today's young adults and teenagers.

While the YouGov study didn't specifically blame social media, it did quote a study which linked social media use to loneliness.

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An experimental study recently investigated social media use with ill-health.

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Psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, who published her findings in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, connected Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram use to decreased well-being through experimental data.

143 participants filled out a form explaining their mood at the beginning of the experiment. The people running the experiment were then provided with baseline data about the participant's social media usage. Over the next three weeks, some participants were limited to 10 minutes per day of social media, while others had their general social media use and mood monitored.

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The study found that social media use does decrease well-being.

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Explaining the study's findings, Hunt said:

"Here's the bottom line. Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.

"It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely. Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there's an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people's lives, particularly on Instagram, it's easy to conclude that everyone else's life is cooler or better than yours."

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However, the answer may not be to completely cut out social media.

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Hunt went on to explain that social media is here to stay, so it is more about finding how to limit the damage that social media can do, and for the importance of moderation to be stressed to younger people.

Spending time with those around you is what is really important, not portraying a fake life online. However, social media can be used for good in moderation.

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The YouGov poll also hinted at what it is that is preventing people from making new friends.

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While Hunt's study suggests that social media has a negative effect on your wellbeing, the YouGov poll asked people to specifically highlight why they feel that they don't, or can't, make friends. In response, a shocking 53% of Americans admitted that the reason was that they were shy.

The 2nd most popular reason that people gave was that 'I don't really feel like I need friends', which 27% of Americans said.

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Although, there was some positivity in the study!

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Yes, the study wasn't all doom and gloom for lonely millennials (thank goodness), as 38% of millennials claimed that they had made a new friend in the last few months.

Social media, due to it playing such an important part of teenagers' lives, can limit the need for "real friends" during that time. However, when people begin to grow out of teenage life, they realize that the real world does matter — and, in the real world, you need people you are close to.

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Hopefully the future is bright for younger generations.

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As society becomes more aware of the potentially damaging effects of social media, more can be done to warn people and minimize some of the negative impacts.

And, in doing so, hopefully, people will be more confident to find new relationships in the real world. Finding someone who shares your passions is a fantastic thing, and while going out and meeting new people can be daunting, it can also be astoundingly rewarding!

h/t: i-d & YouGov

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