Millennials are the loneliest generation

Jamie BallardData Journalist
July 30, 2019, 7:45 PM GMT+0

The social media generation is the one that feels the most alone.

New data from YouGov finds that Millennials report feeling lonely much more often than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts. While 30 percent of Millennials say they always or often feel lonely, just one in five (20%) members of Generation X says the same. Even fewer Baby Boomers (15%) report feeling lonely with the same frequency.

Millennials are also more likely than older generations to report that they have no acquaintances (25% of Millennials say this is the case), no friends (22%), no close friends (27%), and no best friends (30%).

However, a majority (70%) of Millennials do report that they have at least one best friend. Nearly half (49%) say that they have between one and four “close friends.”

YouGov’s research for this survey didn’t directly examine why millennials might be feeling more lonely than older generations, but earlier studies point to social media and the internet as potential influences.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania found a link between social media use and decreased well-being. Speaking about the study she and her team conducted, psychologist Melissa G. Hunt said, “Here’s the bottom line: Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.”

Excessive social media use may be just one of the reasons some Americans are feeling isolated.

About three in 10 (31%) Americans say that they find it difficult to make friends. The most common reason: shyness (53%). Another 27 percent of those who find it difficult to make friends say that they “don’t feel like they need friends.” A similar number (26%) say they don’t have any hobbies or interests that can facilitate friendships.

But in spite of these perceived obstacles, friendships are still being forged. Over four in ten (42%) Americans say they’ve made a new friend within the last six months. Even the loneliest generation -- Millennials -- is doing well in this regard: 38 percent have made a new friend in the last six months.

Wondering where to make new friends? You might look to your office, your neighborhood, your church or even your children.

Most Americans say they’ve made at least one friend through work (76%) or in their local neighborhood (61%). Over four in 10 (44%) have made a friend through church or other spiritual communities, while 38 percent say they’ve made at least one friend in an informal way - by striking up a conversation in the park or in a cafe or other similar scenarios. An identical number of Americans say they’ve made friends through their children.

Of course, as the saying goes, make new friends but keep the old.

Six in 10 (62%) Americans say they’re still close with at least one friend from high school. A majority (54%) are still friends with someone they knew from childhood, and 34 percent are still friends with someone they met in college.

Methodology: Total unweighted sample size was 1,254 US adults ages 18+. The responding sample is weighted to provide a representative reporting sample. The survey was conducted online July 3 - 5, 2019.

Sign up to be a member of the YouGov panel and see the full poll results here.

Related: Most support Mental Health Day law for Oregon students

Image: The Gender Spectrum Collection