Loneliness among Americans has been growing in recent years, but the policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically exacerbated the problem. A new report by Harvard University researchers finds that 36 percent of Americans are experiencing “serious loneliness,” and some groups, such as young adults and mothers with small children, are especially isolated.
Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s “Making Caring Common” project analyzed data from an October 2020 online survey of 950 Americans. “Alarming numbers of Americans are lonely,” they conclude in their paper, and those surveyed “reported substantial increases in loneliness since the outbreak of the pandemic.”
Young adults are the loneliest group. According to the research findings, 61 percent of young people ages 18 to 25 reported feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” during the four weeks preceding the fall survey. Forty-three percent of these young adults indicated that their loneliness had increased since the pandemic and related lockdowns began. These results echo similar findings of other Harvard researchers who found that nearly half of young adults were showing signs of depression amid the pandemic response. And in August, the CDC reported that one in four young adults in this age range had contemplated suicide during the month of June.
Mothers with small children were another group experiencing high rates of loneliness according to the recent survey analysis, with more than half of mothers reporting serious loneliness. Forty-seven percent of these mothers said that their loneliness increased during the pandemic response.
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