There is a lot of talk in the media today about the so-called “loneliness epidemic.” It is true that we are at risk of losing contact with friends or family due to the Corona pandemic, the excessive use of social media, or an unhealthy balance between work and free time.
However, there is also much scientific evidence that argues against an epidemic of loneliness. In this article, I will outline why the narrative of such an explosive spread is exaggerated.
Loneliness Is Subjective
The main characteristic of medical diagnoses is that they are objectively verifiable. Any disease that is studied can be defined by specific properties, such as symptoms or tests.
Loneliness, on the other hand, is not a clear-cut disease, because it is a subjective emotional state. You can feel lonely in the midst of a large crowd of people – but you can also be alone at home without feeling lonely. Loneliness expresses itself differently from person to person.
Being alone and feeling lonely are not the same thing. You are alone when there is no one else around, but loneliness depends on the quality of your social relationships. This distinction is important because depending on how introverted or extroverted you are, you will seek contact with other people more or less often.
There Is Not Enough Data
In loneliness research, there is no reliable data that goes far back in time. This is a problem if you want to make long-term statements about development trends.
In addition, a study in Switzerland found that there has been no discernible increase in loneliness over the past 15 years. Other studies that have compared people of the same age from different generations have come to similar conclusions.
Feelings of Loneliness Fluctuate throughout Life
The tendency to feel lonely is subject to a natural cycle.
Adolescents and young adults are more likely to feel lonely because they have to balance their jobs with their families and friends. Especially when you're starting out in your career, you often have to work longer and harder to “make it.”
The older you get, the fewer social relationships you need to be happy. So, if a young person feels lonelier than his or her parents, this is not evidence of a loneliness epidemic, but is due to biological changes when you grow up.
At an older age, people are more likely to feel lonely again if they are no longer mobile, fall ill or if their loved one's die.
Of Course, Technology Still Plays a Role
It would be wrong to claim that modern technologies and especially social media have no impact on loneliness and psychological health. The influence of technology on the well-being of teenagers in particular is the subject of extensive scientific research.
Nevertheless – based on current data – it is exaggerated to speak of an epidemic of loneliness. On the one hand, one should not spread panic, on the other hand, one should, of course, take lonely people seriously and help them as best as possible.
The most important tip to follow in times of Instagram, SnapChat and Co. is to spend quality time with your family and friends outside of digital media.
Look up from your screen and recognize the beauty of the moments you get to spend face-to-face with loved ones.
 If you are feeling lonely or need help, don't hesitate to reach out to a trusted person in your life or, for example, check in with a telephone counseling service.