Study: Young Americans, not seniors, are the loneliest

In-person interactions, meaningful conversations every day are key to not feeling lonely

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Friday, May 4, 2018
This is an undated image of a woman folding her hands.
This is an undated image of a woman folding her hands.

NEW YORK, N.Y. (WPVI) -- "Are you lonely tonight? " once crooned Elvis Presley.

For those in Gen Z, 18-22 years old, there's a good chance the answer is yes.

A new national survey by Cigna, says young Americans are the loneliest, and believe they are in worse health than other generations.

The assessment found that most American adults are considered lonely, that no one really understands them, and they have no one to talk to.

The evaluation of loneliness was measured by the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire.

Some results of the survey of 20,000 adults were alarming:

* Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).

* One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.

* Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).

* One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).

* Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.

Additionally, loneliness has a profound impact on the workplace in terms of productivity. To help employers address this pressing issue, Cigna will convene a group of its clients to discuss steps that can be taken and potential solutions to improve vitality and address loneliness in the workplace.

Contrary to common misconceptions, social media use isn't a good predictor of loneliness.

People who engage in frequent meaningful in-person interactions have much lower loneliness scores and report better health than those who rarely interact with others face-to-face.

Keys to not being lonely?

People who are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions; are in good overall physical and mental health; have achieved balance in daily activities; and are employed and have good relationships with their coworkers.

Getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and "me time" is connected to lower loneliness scores.

However, balance is critical, as those who get too little or too much of these activities have higher loneliness scores.

Cigna is launching an effort to help address the loneliness epidemic and improve Americans' overall mental wellness and vitality.

As a first step, the company is calling on other like-minded organizations to join in the fight against the epidemic.

By working together, the hope is that a group of companies and organizations can develop solutions that help improve vitality and reduce feelings of loneliness for Americans.

Cigna has several programs already in place to help address loneliness:

In Korea, Cigna's business has a program where employees call senior customers and their caregivers to provide a human check-in and alleviate potential feelings of loneliness or isolation.