Those in their late teens and early 20s are feeling lonelier than their elders as a study has found they struggle to make friendships during an age of social media, which is having a major impact on their behaviour and lives.
Experts note social media is misleading the younger generation as they assume their peers’ online antics are a true representation of their lifestyles, and can be used as a substitute for real friendships.
Counselling organisation Relate looked at a survey of over 5,000 people, estimating that around seven million adults in the U.K., about 13 per cent of the entire population, lack close friends. Researchers reveal this has risen by a third since the review was last put out in 2015, which found 10 per cent had no friends.
The most isolation was found amongst younger people though, with 32 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds reporting feeling lonely all or most of the time compared to 18 per cent of adults. Meanwhile just 11 per cent over-65s felt the same.
On top of this, one in 20 participants stated they had never felt loved while one in eight felt they had no close friends.
The research, conducted by YouGov, didn’t examine the people who didn’t fit these age groups though, such as younger retirees who are often said to be the happiest people in the country, while the over-80s are more likely to feel isolated while suffering bereavement.
“The relationship skills we build as young people are crucial to how we form our relationships later in life. But the way those early relationships are conducted has changed immeasurably in the last ten years, leaving a gulf between this generation and the previous ones,” counsellor Barbara Bloomfield said.
“Social media is a great way for keeping in touch with friends but it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for face-to-face contact.”
She further explained how it can be “isolating” watching friends have a good time on platforms like Facebook and Instagram without them, leading people to question their own lifestyles.
Bloomfield also recommended the younger generation take regular breaks from their mobile phones and tablets to actually meet up with people as such relationships are “essential” for good health and wellbeing.
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