Why today’s young women are among the loneliest people in the country

Young women are among the loneliest and most isolated group of people in Australia, according to a study that found four in five felt left out and lacking companionship.

Mar 07, 2024, updated Mar 07, 2024
It started with Covid isolation and has grown through work-from-home and the rise of technology. Why are we all so lonely? (Image: Everyday Health)

It started with Covid isolation and has grown through work-from-home and the rise of technology. Why are we all so lonely? (Image: Everyday Health)

A Headspace survey released on Thursday on the eve of International Women’s Day, found young women suffered loneliness more than their male counterparts, even though young men were less likely to ask for help.

The survey mirrored findings from research undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which also identified loneliness as an escalating issue for women under the age of 24.

The Headspace National Youth Mental Health Survey asked questions of more than 3100 people between the ages of 12 and 25, and found three in five young people reported feeling like they lacked companionship, felt isolated or left out.

But the rates of loneliness were highest among women aged between 18 and 21, with almost four in five reporting feelings of loneliness.

Social isolation was least pressing among tweens and teens between 12 and 14 years, the survey found.

Headspace clinical leadership head Nicola Palfrey said the findings may reflect a challenging stage of life, in which young adults gain greater independence and leave primary school or the family home.

“People in their late teens and early twenties are doing many things for the first time,” Ms Palfrey said.

“Moving out of the family home or no longer seeing your friends and teachers every day can increase the likelihood of feeling lonely.”

But Ms Palfrey said other factors could also challenge young women’s mental health, including a smaller likelihood to participate in community sport and the larger influence of social media for the group.

“The… survey told us that young women and people in this specific age range were more likely to display problematic social media use,” she said.

“Social media bombards us with images of people having a great time, surrounded by friends, which can make us feel lonely or like we’re missing out.”

Women between 18 and 21 were also the most likely age group among women to deal with emotional problems on their own, the survey found, although men were the least willing to seek assistance overall.

Headspace’s findings identify similar issues to those raised in a report into social isolation released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in September, which found more women under the age of 24 years reported feeling “very lonely” than just six years earlier.

Ms Palfrey said she encouraged all young people suffering from feelings of isolation to consider joining a sports club, taking up a hobby, volunteering with a charity, or contacting Headspace for support.

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