Millennials worry about loneliness more than elderly study shows

From Nine To Noon, 9:30 am on 5 August 2020

Loneliness is a big concern among the elderly, but a new study is showing it is even more significant for young people.

Findings from Southern Cross' inaugural Healthy Futures Report, found half of the millennials it questioned were concerned about being lonely, compared with only a quarter of those aged over 70. 

Dr Stephen Child chief medical officer at Southern Cross, who works as a specialist in Auckland, says the findings were a surprise.

Side view portrait of a sad single man looking down from a balcony of a house  with an urban background

Photo: 123RF

“One in 10 described themselves as unhappy, one in four described themselves as feeling stressed, 49 percent of Kiwis said that they were not happy with themselves and didn’t feel that they were good enough.

“That’s almost half of Kiwis not feeling good enough about themselves which is a surprising and very sad statistic in many ways.”

The report used Colmar Brunton to survey 3000 Kiwis from a spread of ages, ethnicities and regions.

Some common themes emerged, he says.

“The overall concerns that people raised were things like cost of living, domestic violence, mental health issues, suicide rates and addictions.

“When it came to physical concerns 54 percent felt they weren’t fit enough and 62 percent were worried that their kids weren’t getting good food.

“On the emotional level they were concerned about money and worried about their kids’ future and at the social level it was about the elderly needing care and being a burden to others.”

But a theme that ran through all the findings was social disconnectedness.

We care about others and we worry about others and that’s why the social disconnectedness and loneliness ended up being such a high statistic.

“Overall 38 percent of people felt they were lonely and were concerned about loneliness and that was surprisingly higher in the 18 to 29-year-olds.”

Over half of young people felt that they were happy in their social relationships, but only 32 percent felt they were connected to their community, he says.

Whereas among the elderly 25 percent reported loneliness.

“That was a surprising result, most if the time we think about loneliness we think about the elderly and often widowed people. But I think for them they may have developed significant relationships over a period of time and they have family and they have others caring for them.”

Millennials defined wellbeing as looking the part rather than feeling the part, he says.

“I think that highlights that happiness is the difference between expectations and reality.

"And I think for the millennials, expectations of what we should have, or what we should be, have been increasing faster than the reality.

“So, our stress has been increasing and our happiness has been decreasing.”

He believes a self-compassion is part of the answer.

“Accepting yourself and trying to give these little positive things a nudge.

“That’s different to self-esteem which is often trying to pump yourself up, self-compassion is a true love of yourself and acceptance of yourself as you are.”