People under the age of 24 – commonly referred to as ‘Generation Z’ – are now the loneliest generation, according to new research.
Campaigners have called for more to be done to tackle the impact the pandemic and cost of living crisis has had on young people.
New data has shown that three times as many 16-24 year olds – 19% – often or always feel lonely compared to 65-74 year olds – at 6%.
The research, published by Eden Project Communities, also revealed that young people and those living in cities are hardest hit by isolation, contrary to stereotypes that older people suffer the most.
Only 14% of the 16-24 year olds surveyed said they had never felt lonely.
Steve Barnabis, based in London, is determined to change the narrative around Gen Z and loneliness.
He lost his 16-year-old cousin to knife crime in 2004, and as a result he set up the charity Project Zero.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘We see a wide range of issues across all the age groups we work with.
“With the younger kids, there is definitely an increase in anxiety and a lack of confidence and self-esteem.
“Many problems with motivation as well, especially for those who took exams during Covid. They think about things like “what’s the point of going to school and taking exams for so many years”.
“The pandemic was a real blow for many young people.”
An ever-changing digital era has seen young people rely on digital connections rather than personal experiences.
Project Zero hosts a community hub with a cafe, radio station and event hall – to allow young people to enjoy real activities instead of staying at home.
The community-based project also delivers youth engagement projects to promote social inclusion and reduce offending and anti-social behaviour.
Steve added: “It’s phones and technology these kids have to keep in touch with each other, but in a way it’s harder for young people to connect with each other.
“After Covid, many struggle to get out and socialize again. It was a period when children were more dependent on phones and encouraged to rely on technology – so it will be difficult to move away from that mindset.’
The latest Eden Communities data on loneliness explored the demographic profiles of regions across England and Wales from the recent 2021 census.
It confirmed that the highest proportion of young people live in city centres, where 17% of people report chronic feelings of loneliness.
Tracey Robbins, practitioner at the Eden Project and a recognized expert on loneliness, said: “The extent of loneliness in young adults can be linked to social media, frequent life changes and transitions, or moving to cities where people often live alone or in a room in shared house.
“Pandemic social restrictions left a legacy that led to reduced confidence in connecting with others.
“Now rising living costs limit social opportunities.
“The good news is that feeling part of a community can help, so it’s a brilliant motivation for everyone to reach out and start connecting.”
Tracey and Eden Project Communities have encouraged communities to work together to reduce isolation.
You can host a #BigLunch or visit the organization’s website for tips on how you can make a difference to the loneliness epidemic.
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