Many young people suffer from social stagnation

Growing loneliness among teens was a problem even before the pandemic.

Two images of life in lockdown during 2020. One of them is the whole country banging pots and pans and clapping together on a spring afternoon at the start of the pandemic to support health care workers. The other is the sight of a nearby taco restaurant on humid winter nights, where a procession of food delivery people are working on apps like Deliveroo They arrived and stood in front of the window in the rain.

They were holding their phone screens against the glass so that anyone inside could see their order number. After a while, a hand reached through the door with a bag. She was safe and effective during the virus outbreak, but she also felt very lonely.

Even before Covid-19, there were signs that many countries, including the UK, were becoming lonelier places as social capital began to collapse. The UK Statistics Office describes social capital as “the extent and nature of our relationships with others, as well as the collective attitudes and behaviors between people that support a well-functioning and cohesive society.” Because this concept is multifaceted and amorphous, British statisticians have in recent years attempted to use a number of different parameters to measure it over time.

Some of these numbers were declining before the pandemic. Between 2014/15 and 2017/2018, the proportion of people who said they stop regularly to talk to their neighbors fell by about 6 percentage points, to 62 percent. The percentage who claimed to feel part of their area decreased by a similar amount. The proportion of members in political, voluntary, professional and recreational organizations decreased from 53 to 48 percent. Tom Clark, a fellow at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, wonders if these trends could represent a “social stagnation.”

Did the first phase of the pandemic improve our social capital by reminding us that we depend on each other and encouraging acts of kindness and care? Or did it make it worse, leaving more people isolated and alone as technology changes speed up negating our personal interactions?

UK statistics show that the answer depends on who you are and where you are. The proportion of people saying they borrow things and exchange services with their neighbors increased between 2019 and 2021, perhaps a sign of fraudulent domestic bonds. However, the increase was more noticeable among women than men, and they were also the ones who reported in 2021 a greater sense of confidence in people.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of people feeling lonely has also increased. However, while many were concerned about loneliness in older adults early in the pandemic, only 3 percent of people aged 65 to 74 and 6 percent of people aged over 75 said they often feel lonely. unit.or always in 2020/21, compared to 11 percent of 16-24 year olds. Similarly, analysis by the local authority shows that areas with high youth populations had higher rates of loneliness between October 2020 and February 2021. Areas with high unemployment and lower average wages were also more isolated.

The impact of the pandemic on young people is particularly worrying, because their loneliness levels have already been on the rise, and not just in the UK. A study published last year examined data from an OECD survey of 15- to 16-year-olds from a range of countries in 2000, 2003, 2012, 2015 and 2018.

The survey contained six questions about loneliness at school, such as “I feel like a stranger (or left things) at school” and “I feel lonely at school.” In a sample of one million teens, loneliness at school increased between 2012 and 2018 in 36 of 37 countries. Nearly twice as many teens felt higher levels of loneliness in 2018 than in 2012. Researchers found that loneliness at school was higher when more students had access to smartphones and used the Internet for more hours per day than in the week. If the internet is making young people feel lonely, no wonder the pandemic has made them feel even more lonely.

Loneliness is bad for your health: Researchers have found links between chronic loneliness, heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety. It can also change your view of the world around you. A study in the United Kingdom asked young people how friendly their neighborhoods were: it was found that lonely young people rated their neighborhoods as worse than their neighborhoods than their siblings with more friendships and interaction.

If any group is in social stagnation, it is the youth class. In addition to helping them catch up on missed homework, we urgently need to think about how we can work together to make them feel more connected to each other and, more importantly, in a way that doesn’t involve using their phones.

Sarah O’Connor

Copyrights – The Financial Times Limited 2021.

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