Gallup survey finds global ‘loneliness epidemic’

A new Gallup-Meta survey found young adults are more lonely than seniors - Photo by UnSplash +

Are the internet and social media partly responsible?

Anyone can feel lonely and these days, more people than ever say they have that feeling.

A new survey by the Gallup organization and Meta found nearly one in four people worldwide -- which translates into more than a billion people -- feel very or fairly lonely. And while its often the elderly lumped into that group, seniors are among the least lonely people on the planet.

Global results indicate that the lowest rates of feeling lonely are reported among older adults aged 65 and older, with only 17% feeling very or fairly lonely. The highest rates of feeling lonely are reported among young adults aged 19 to 29, with 27% feeling very or fairly lonely.

Although many calls to reduce loneliness are focused on older adults, majorities of those aged 45 and older do not feel lonely at all, while less than half of those younger than 45 say the same.

Here’s a possible explanation: older adults have spent most of these lives before there was an internet and social media, whose development have coincided with less public activity and a rise in isolation and anxeity. Older Americans are more likely to belong to a church or a club and interact with others.

In general, rates of reported loneliness are similar between men and women. Global results show that 24% of both men and women report feeling very or fairly lonely.

The search for solutions

To combat what it calls the “loneliness epidemic,” the Loneliness Institute has released a set of recommendations and concerns.

“We examined thousands of studies, government programs, news articles, non-profits, startups, one-off projects, and more,” the group said in a press release. “We interviewed hundreds of experts and practitioners. Most research examines the size and harms of loneliness. We focused specifically on high-impact solutions instead.

The group said it concluded that the programs most likely to make an impact at mass scale fit into what it calls the TOP Strategy: Tools, Organizations, and Places.

  • Tools: Make it easier for people to connect with widely available, free or low-cost software that helps make connections, find groups, plan events, and organize activities.

  • Organizations: Reboot national membership organizations, make it easier to create them, help them scale, and help people find them.

  • Places: Open up in-person, no-cost community spaces where people can have recurring social contact and host social activities.

The report concludes that it’s time to stop studying the problem and start developing solutions.

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