Loneliness is More Common Than You Think: How to Connect in 2018

Feeling lonely? You are not alone! Loneliness by definition means feeling alone, but in a recent study, about half of Americans reported feeling alone or left out. While this statistic is alarming, there is comfort in learning that feeling lonely nowadays is not abnormal.

In a recent Cigna survey, loneliness was quantified through the “UCLA Loneliness Scale,” which is based on 20 questions that determines the respondent’s level of loneliness. Users receive a score between 20 and 80, with a national average of 44.

Here is the breakdown of loneliness, based on generation:

  • Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) scored 48.3
  • Millennials (age 23 to 37) scored 45.3
  • Generation X (ages 38 to 51) scored 45.1

But what cures loneliness? According to John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, loneliness is not cured by simply putting people together – it’s by putting the right people together. We need to feel a connection to people to make us not feel alone.

He discovered this trait in monkeys as well, “It’s not separating a monkey from any companion, it’s separating them from a preferred companion. When we do that, we see the same effects in those monkeys that we see in humans; they feel lonely.”

Loneliness takes a toll on your physical health and can be as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People who suffer from loneliness engage in less physical activity and have higher blood pressure.

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Putting the Social Back Into Social Media

While social media is enticing, according to the same Cigna survey, social media engagement and “connection” are not a correct barometer of a user’s loneliness. “Very heavy users of social media” had a loneliness score of 43.5 versus “those who never use social media” had a score of 41.7. These scores are based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale where the average loneliness score is 43.5.

Professor Cacioppo explains that social media can be associated with lower levels of loneliness when used as a means to meet up in person.

Mark Zuckerberg reported similar findings in a Facebook post earlier this year: “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long-term measures of happiness and health.”

In a Pew Research Center Study of Teens, Technology and Friendship, 57% of teens had made a friend online, but only 20% have met an online friend in person.

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The Art of Meaningful Connections

According to the Cigna survey, only 53% of Americans felt that they have “meaningful in person social interactions.” That said, those who engaged more frequently in in-person interactions received lower loneliness scores and had better health than those who did not interact in-person.

David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, spoke on behalf of their findings, saying “we’re seeing a lack of human connection, which ultimately leads to a lack of vitality – or a disconnect between mind and body. We must change this trend by reframing the conversation to be about ‘mental wellness’ and ‘vitality’ to speak to our mental-physical connection.”

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Time to Get Frendli

Frendli is serving the community by helping people connect as friends. As proven by statistics, those of us who are less lonely are in better physical and mental health and are more likely to have meaningful, in-person connections. Frendli achieves this through connecting people with similar interests and providing fun, local options to meet up offline. Ready to get Frendli? Join our waitlist for launch here.