Harvard Study: An Epidemic of Loneliness Is Spreading Across America

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Stop Being Delusional

Senior Member
Jan 8, 2021
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This is so terribly sad. I do hope anyone feeling lonely get to find comfort in someone. Maybe their next door neighbours. This planned pandemic has been terrible on everyone and it is a disgrace that it is still going on. My heart goes out to everyone who has been effected by this. The families who lost loved ones due to suicide, the rate of domestic violence of men, women and children going up. All the people who lost their jobs and can’t afford food “famine/starvation” of the poor. Truly sad. I just hope people can find comfort even if it is just an online friend to talk to daily, phone calls whatever. My heart truly breaks.

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.

While everyone has been forcibly cut off from normal social interaction as a result of government lockdown measures, social distancing mandates, and other public health orders, young people and mothers with small children may be particularly harmed by these policies.

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.

While everyone has been forcibly cut off from normal social interaction as a result of government lockdown measures, social distancing mandates, and other public health orders, young people and mothers with small children may be particularly harmed by these policies. In many cases, older teenagers and young adults have been unable to meaningfully connect with their peers during school closures and remote learning plans. Additionally, social distancing requirements on many college campuses have halted normal social interaction and can contribute to loneliness and depression among this cohort. As a fall semester article in BU Today, a publication of Boston University, explained: “BU’s aggressive coronavirus safety protocols—no large groups, fewer in-person classes and meetings, and restrictions on the amount of people allowed in an elevator, laundry room, and even around a dining hall table—can equal loneliness.”

For mothers with small children, being disconnected from other mothers, as well as lacking in-person support from family members and friends, can take its toll and make days with little ones seem even longer and more intense. Additionally, as the Harvard researchers found, periodic daycare and school closures have made the last year particularly challenging for mothers.

In their paper, the researchers cite developmental psychologist, Niobe Way, who says: “We are in danger of alleviating one public health problem—the transmission of disease—while exacerbating another.” Indeed, economists have been pointing out these tradeoffs of the pandemic response since last spring. As FEE’s Antony Davies and James Harrigan wrote in April: “Regardless of whether we acknowledge them, tradeoffs exist. And acknowledging tradeoffs is an important part of constructing sound policy.”


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