Loneliness After a Year Indoors: More than 1 in 5 people said Zoom made them feel more lonely during the pandemic (infographics)

The past year has been a challenging and unique experience for everyone, with many Americans working from home, facing job loss, or opting to stay home to help their children with homeschooling. Even if you were an essential worker, many people likely spent much more time in their homes than ever before. With all of this downtime, it’s no wonder that loneliness became a major result of a pandemic spent in isolation.

Stannah Stairlifts recently conducted a survey to better understand trends in loneliness and how the past year has impacted 1,001 respondents, with regard to age and generations, coping strategies, and staying connected through technology. We’ll dig into some of the most significant insights to help you better understand how the feeling of loneliness has changed and evolved during the pandemic.

We’re all in this together, but we’re still very much alone

Overwhelmingly, 79.8% of respondents surveyed indicated that they felt lonely over the past year, with millennials making up the largest group of participants who felt “very lonely” or “somewhat lonely.” Generation X appeared to be the least lonely out of all generations, with only 18.3% feeling “very lonely” and just over half feeling “somewhat lonely.” Baby boomers’ results were in between these two generations.

What’s most interesting is that while feelings of loneliness increased during the pandemic, most respondents in all age groups who reported feeling lonely experienced some level of loneliness prior to January 2020. However, surges of loneliness occurred in March and April of 2020, with smaller increases in May and June of the same year.

How loneliness has impacted Americans

The increase in loneliness over the past year has taken a toll on many. In fact, over half of all millennials and 47% of baby boomers stated they would get a COVID-19 vaccine immediately in order to feel less lonely.

What specific factors contributed to increased levels of loneliness? The answer varies by generation. Millennials noted that quarantining/social distancing and not being able to see friends were the top reasons for their increased levels of loneliness. Gen Xers and baby boomers both agreed that quarantining/social distancing and missing birthdays were the two top catalysts for their loneliness.

Other top contributing factors included the boredom of having to stay at home, anxiety over maintaining family connections, living situations, and missed weddings. Surprisingly, working from home was beneath all of these factors, which could be because not every respondent surveyed had the option of remote work.

How often do Americans feel isolated?

Although millennials reported the highest levels of loneliness, it’s baby boomers who reported experiencing isolation all the time at a higher rate than the other two generations. Millennials took the lead when it came to experiencing isolation some of the time.

Personality types also were taken into account during this survey, introverts reported the highest levels of feeling isolated most of the time, while ambiverts were the ones most likely to indicate experiencing isolation some of the time.

All generations reported high levels of effort to stay in touch with friends and family – 83.9% of baby boomers made significant efforts to stay in direct communication with those most important to them, followed by 80.8% of Generation X and 76.6% of millennials.

Ways Americans combat loneliness

With just about everyone experiencing loneliness at a higher degree than ever before, it’s essential to review how Americans have been keeping loneliness at bay during the past year. Common mitigation strategies included the following:
  • Watching TV and/or movies
  • Exercising
  • Taking walks
  • Turning to social media
  • Reading
  • Connecting virtually with friends and family
  • Making home-cooked meals
All three generations agreed that watching TV was their number one strategy for combating feelings of loneliness.

Technology vs. loneliness

While technology has been heralded as a means to stay in touch during social distancing measures and quarantines, digital tech also has been found to make some feel even more isolated.

While millennials preferred to stay in touch with people via texting, both Generation X and baby boomers preferred phone calls. Social media, emails, Zoom calls, FaceTime, Skype, and WhatsApp were also popular methods employed by all generations to stay in touch with friends and family.

Although staying connected through digital means was on the rise for the past year and by far the most popular method of maintaining contact, mailing handwritten letters also increased, perhaps appealing to Americans by offering them a way of keeping in touch without using a screen.

While most of those surveyed stated that using tech decreased their feelings of loneliness, for some, the opposite was true. Social media and Zoom were found to have the highest numbers of increased loneliness for respondents, while 15% of baby boomers experienced more loneliness after a phone call and 14.4% of millennials echoed the sentiment after texting.

What do these findings mean?

While we can see that feelings of loneliness and isolation have increased over the past year, there are some interesting insights worth exploring further in the future. First of all, many people have been experiencing loneliness on some level since before the pandemic, and millennials were the generation most likely to experience levels of extreme loneliness.

Despite these findings, baby boomers were most likely to feel isolated during the pandemic, even though they were actively using social media daily, based on the survey results. Generally, staying in touch via technology helped offset feelings of loneliness for many, but for some, seeing or hearing their loved ones’ voices actually increased their loneliness.

Ultimately, feeling lonely is not associated with one particular generation. While each generation might have their own preferred method for combating loneliness and staying in contact with friends and families, this universal feeling is one most of us have experienced over the past fourteen months regardless of age.
Loneliness After a Year Indoors
Top ways people are keeping in touch during the pandemic: text messages (72.5%), phone calls (72.4%), social media (49%), zoom (46.6%) and emails (46.4%)
Read next: Report shows about 15 percent of US adults access the internet from their smartphones, without having a broadband connection at home
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