More young people are becoming lonelier and suspicious of others, according to different surveys. In general, one in every four Millennials is likely to have no close friends to speak of.
The loneliness and broken social circle among young adults were unraveled from surveys by YouGov, a British internet-based market research firm, and Pew Research Center, an American nonpartisan think tank. Their surveys revealed the shocking reality in the social lives of young adults, wherein distrust and the absence of close friends were apparent. Because of these issues, many of them were at risk of extreme loneliness. No matter how high their income was, the lack of shoulders to lean on during dark times could result in suicide.
The Less Trusting Tendency Among Young Adults
Despite the convenience brought by the internet, hundreds of thousands of young adults still unable to form solid social networks. Even if they meet physically, many remain incapable of establishing the golden foundation of friendship or romance, depending on the goal. One of several reasons why this happens is distrust. As the digital age continues, more and more young individuals are less trusting of others, which even results in the lack of at least one close friend. That scenario is detrimental in trying times, like in the current pandemic.
In a survey released by YouGov on July 31, 2019, 3 out of 10 Millennials said they often or always feel lonely. Across all three generations of participants, 21% of respondents reported feeling lonely from time to time. About 30% of Millennials, 20% of Generation X, and 15% of Baby Boomers reported feeling lonely, either always or often. As indicated, older generations were likely spared from loneliness than the younger generation.
Their social circle was a part of the survey to determine the reason behind their loneliness. Most of the respondents across all generations reported at least one best friend or close friend. However, 30% of Millennials reported no best friend and 27% reported no close friend. Those percentages were higher than the 27% of Generation X without a best friend and 22% without a close friend, and 25% of Baby Boomers without a best friend and 16% without a close friend.
Although YouGov did not directly examine the disparity in the loneliness trend between generations, they inspected possible factors that might be hindering new friendships or expansion of social circles.
Shyness was an outstanding obstacle experienced by young adults. About 53% of young Americans said that their shyness made it difficult to make friends, 27% said they do not feel like they need friends, 26% said they do not have any interest or hobby that might help start friendships, 20% said they perceived friendships as too much work, 19% said that their current area lacks the type of people they want to be their friends, 14% said that they were too busy for friendships, and 11% said they just moved in and have not found any friends yet.
Rob Henderson, a Ph.D. student and scholar at the University of Cambridge, conducted his own survey to get more insights. Because of his dismay from the YouGov survey results, he started a poll on social media with a focus on close friends. The objective of his poll was to get fresh data and see if the results would be different from the earlier survey. Over 1,100 individuals responded to the poll and results were the same with the previous survey. About 24% of women and 21% of men said they had no close friends.
The Possible Culprit Behind Zero Close Friends
According to the July 22, 2019 survey released by Pew Research Center, many young Americans expressed distrust in others. Though, they knew that distrust was likely the reason why several issues could not be addressed in society. About 75% of respondents believed that distrust in the federal government and 64% of respondents believed that distrust in each other hindered resolutions of issues. About 64% of respondents believed that low trust in the government and 70% of respondents believed that low trust in each other made solutions harder to do.
When it comes to the spectrum of trust, there was only a small percentage of respondents that expressed high trust in others. Across all factors, 35% of respondents were low trusters, 41% were medium trusters, and 22% were high trusters. By age groups, 46% of adults aged 18 to 29 years were low trusters, 42% were medium trusters, and 11% were high trusters. About 39% of adults aged 30 to 49 years were low trusters, 41% were medium trusters, and 18% were high trusters. Around 31% of adults aged 50 to 64 years were low trusters, 41% were medium trusters, and 25% were high trusters. And lastly, around 19% of adults aged 65 and older were low trusters, 40% were medium trusters, and 37% were high trusters. The percentages highly expressed distrust among younger adults.
Suicide has been the greatest adverse outcome of loneliness induced by distrust and lack of close friends among young adults. One study from the US Department of Defense revealed that enlisted service members who died due to suicide were male and younger than 30 years. The object type that resulted in their premature death was a firearm. After differences in gender and age were controlled, the suicide rates in the military were nearly equal to the US population rates.
"I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent further, future suicides in the armed services. We don't. We are caught up in what some call a national epidemic of suicide among our youth," said Mark Esper, the US Secretary of Defense, as quoted by Psychology Today, a US-based magazine.
Whether a young adult is a civilian or military, their risk of loneliness and lack of at least one close friend may be influenced by professional conquest. Compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers, Millennials are challenged by globalization and modernization. They have to think and move quickly to achieve something tangible, which can help secure their future. But this behavior increases their chances of feeling lonely and living their young adulthood unhappy.
Since their common excuse is having no time for relationships, they are prone to zero close friends, depression, and isolation. In case they managed to achieve something great, they may have to embrace the next chapter of their adulthood with vast riches and empty relationships. That circumstance can be the central element of their midlife crisis.