A giant survey found we’re lonelier than ever—and social media might be to blame


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In today’s world, it seems like being lonely shouldn’t even be a thing. When you’re not meeting up with your girls at Pilates or Face-Timing with your college BFF, you’re probably catching up on your friends’ latest endeavors on Instagram. But it turns out that even with so many different ways to connect, people are still feeling lonelier than ever.

In The Loneliness Experiment from BBC Radio 4 and Wellcome Collection, 55,000 participants ages 16 and up completed 40-minute-long online surveys that included questions about everything from friendships and relationships to technology, and their answers revealed some surprising results. While older individuals are always thought to be the loneliest of the bunch, that’s a far cry from the truth: 40 percent of those ages 16 to 24 said they feel lonely often or very often, making them the loneliest age group. In comparison, 29 percent of those ages 65 to 74 and 27 percent of those 75 and up felt the same way.

While older individuals are always thought to be the loneliest of the bunch, that’s a far cry from the truth: 40 percent of those ages 16 to 24 said they feel lonely often or very often, making them the loneliest age group.

Those numbers are pretty shocking, especially with all the tools younger individuals have to bond and form relationships with each other. The interesting thing, though, is the people who felt the loneliest said social media—you know, a prime way people connect with each other—was the main problem due to them having more “online only” friends than IRL friends. Interestingly enough, time spent online has also been linked to increased unhappiness. So while keeping up with your #girlgang on Instagram or tweeting something funny to your bestie is great, spending time with people face-to-face is important, too—not just for avoiding feelings of loneliness, but also for your health. Loneliness was recently found to be just as bad for your body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Make it your mission to schedule in more time meeting up with those you care about. And if you want to build up your group, don’t be afraid to: Making new friends can be tricky, but even if it’s awkward at first, putting yourself out there and (finally!) asking that cool girl from yoga class to lunch could turn into a lifelong connection that will make you feel anything but lonely.

Here’s the real reason why people stay in unhappy relationships. And find out how one hour of exercise per week can ward off depression.

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