Identifying signs of loneliness among teens and young adults

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A young woman sits on a sofa alone while she stares at a nearby window. Loneliness is more than just a temporary feeling — it’s an epidemic. Anyone who has suffered from loneliness and social isolation can attest that these feelings don’t just come and go. Instead, they create a path of negative impacts and health risks. 

For teens and young adults, loneliness can be even more risky and debilitating. In fact, young adults report twice as many lonely and isolated days than late-middle-aged adults. What’s more, Cigna reports that nearly eight in 10 Gen Zers (b. 1995-2009) and seven in 10 millennials (b. 1980-1994) are lonely, versus half of the baby boomer generation (50b. 1946-1964).

With statistics like these, we need to learn how to address loneliness in young people now, as Generation Alpha (b. 2010-2025) isn’t far behind. Let’s discuss how to identify and treat signs of loneliness among young adults.

The impact of loneliness on teens and young adults

Research shows that loneliness is common — and very traumatic — in teens and young adults. According to a BBC national survey, four out of 10 young people ages 16-24 are lonely. Lonely young adults reported feeling misunderstood, sad, detached and left out. The fear of missing out (FOMO) isn’t just a cliché — it’s pointing to a widespread social health crisis.

That's why it’s essential to not only identify, but also solve for loneliness in young people. Loneliness in young adults poses serious physical health risks, such as cardiovascular, immune and inflammatory issues, obesity and diabetes. It’s also one of the leading risk factors for behavioral health risks such as depression, anxiety, and suicide,

Other behavioral impacts are difficulty sleeping, cognitive impairment, decreased productivity and an inability to self-regulate. Lacking self-regulation can lead to risky behaviors, such as emotional overeating, excessive drinking, smoking or drug misuse — all of which compound on top of health issues to make loneliness an even more dangerous epidemic.

Download How to Fight Loneliness in Young Adults to gain insights into the  struggles young people face and how to help.

How to identify signs of loneliness in teens and young adults

To treat loneliness in teens and young adults, it’s vital to know the common signs to look for. 

Key indicators of loneliness include loss of interest in activities, little to no social connection with others, decreased motivation for self-improvement, increased self-criticism, social anxiety, little sense of belonging and feeling burdensome. Teens and young adults who identify as  LGBTQ+ often have higher levels of social isolation and low self esteem and higher risk for suicide..

Facing the “growing pains” of life transitions can also predict loneliness in young adults. Major life events often precipitate loneliness and mental health challenges. For example, moving away from home, switching foster care facilities, starting college, beginning a new job, or losing a loved one can all lead to newfound feelings of loneliness.

Of course, it’s equally important — and equally challenging — to distinguish depression from loneliness. Often, the two conditions can accompany one another. It’s important for health plans to screen each member for both loneliness and depression  in order to serve each member with an effective solution. Fortunately, this is the work that Pyx Health is helping health plans accomplish.

Combat loneliness in teens and young adults with Pyx Health

Between identifying the root causes of loneliness and understanding how it can affect today’s young adults, combating the loneliness epidemic seems like an uphill battle. Fortunately, Pyx Health is helping teens and young adults cope with loneliness. 

Our science-based, compassion-centered platform is non-judgmental, offering anonymous contact with trained support staff — also known as ANDYs (Authentic, Nurturing, Dependable, Your Friend) — who have relatable life experiences. Our ANDYs are selected for the Pyx youth program based on their ability to relate to teens and young adults struggling with loneliness and social isolation

In addition to support from ANDYs, our empathetic Pyxir chatbot provides companionship, humor and encouragement to help young adults with issues such as bullying, fitting in, body image issues, relationship management, LGBTQIA+ support and more. We also coordinate with health plan care management to ensure easy access to valuable resources for young people.

Still curious about loneliness in young adults? Download our infographic to learn more about loneliness across all age groups.

eBook cover of How to Fight Loneliness in Young Adults