Are Our Teens More Lonely and Depressed?
Todays teens are feeling increasingly more lonely and current research suggests teens and young adults are lonelier than any other age group – even older adults. A large national survey of American teens found that four out of ten young people ages 15 – 24 were pretty lonely, describing themselves as: feeling misunderstood; sad; suffering from the fear of missing out (FOMO); not having anyone to talk with; and feeling detached from the world. Psychology professor, Jean Twenge, from San Diego State University, researched loneliness as a generational challenge. Her findings suggest that the percent of high school seniors who said they often felt lonely increased from 26% in 2012 to 39% in 2017. The number of twelfth graders who said they often felt left out also increased from 30% in 2012 to 38% in 2017.
There are significant medical and psychological consequences of loneliness for your teen. Teens have an increase in depressed thoughts and even are at an increased risk of suicide. Loneliness can lead to poor sleep and sleep deprivation. Without the necessary sleep, we see teens with cognitive challenges in which they cannot concentrate, have difficulty keeping up with school work, and have difficulty managing their emotions. If your teen has difficulty managing their emotions, they might seek potentially dangerous ways to manage these feelings including emotional overeating, excessive drinking, and drug use. There are medical consequences of their inability to manage their feelings such as obesity, high blood pressure, cancer risk, and possible addiction. It has also been identified that your lonely teen is at a greater risk of problems with their immune system potentially leading to infections and viral illnesses.
Teens and young adults are more vulnerable to feeling lonely because they are in the process of figuring out who they are and where they belong in the world. This can be a stressful and confusing time for them often filled with drama and loss or changes in relationships. The loss of a loved one or someone with whom your teen has a close relationship can cause feelings of loneliness. This relationship can be a strong attachment to a community including leaving high school or loss of a job.
At this time, your teen can feel excluded from others which can be exacerbated by social media. Many teens describe feeling excluded from others which creates a sense of not being accepted or being part of a group. As you probably know, most teens post on social media sites pictures of themselves looking their best and showing them having a good time. Your teen who might not be included internalize the negative perception which suggests that they are not valued or important. Your teen might feel lonely even when they are with others. This is a perceived individual experience because your teen has a sense of isolation and alienation from others even while they are participating in activities with their peers.
Young adults haven’t developed the coping skills to manage challenging situations like tolerating feelings of isolation because their brains haven’t developed fully to understand and temper the power of their emotions. This means that they do not have the capacity to regulate their feelings or reactions. Therefore, when they experience FOMO it can be more intense creating more sadness and loneliness. Today’s teens have the appearance of being close to each other when they count how many followers they have on any one social media site. However, they are glued to their devices and posting their feelings and pictures of themselves having fun. Online activities can be a distraction for some teens but it can also be a substitution for real social interaction.
Many of our teens are over scheduled with activities, jobs, and homework from competitive classes which doesn’t encourage socializing with others. Some of these activities have been planned by parents to protect their children or to be competitive against their peers for coveted spots at a top tier college or university. There has been a decline in dating and learning how to drive at the first opportunity over the last several years because teens do not have face-to-face interactions or feel that they need them.
Your teen might need additional support to what you provide at home with a therapist. With the right guidance, support, and counseling, your teen can thrive and feel less lonely. If you would like your teenager to feel more secure and confident in their life, I would be honored to help. Please call 747-998-2148 to set up your free 15-minute consultation to see how teen counseling for loneliness and depression could help you and your teenager.
 Beresin MD, Eugene. Why Are Teens So Lonely, and What Can They Do About It? Psychology Today. July 26, 2019.
 O’Donnell, Jayne. Teens aren’t socializing in the real world. And that’s making them super lonely. USA Today. March 20, 2019.