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Tips for young people

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is an unhappy feeling where you feel sad and alone. You may wish you had more or closer friends, or that you were able to spend more time with the people you care about. Loneliness can affect us no matter our age.

When we asked young people aged 17 – 25 who used Action for Children services, 43% said they had problems with loneliness, and we know it affects younger people too.

Loneliness is less about the number of friends you have and more about how you feel. Some people are very happy to spend a lot of time alone, while others may be part of a large social circle but still feel lonely and isolated.

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Some of the things that can make us feel particularly lonely include:

  • Moving to a new area or starting a new school
  • Having an illness or disability
  • Losing a loved one or ending a relationship
  • Being bullied or abused
  • Being away from friends and family
  • Feeling different from the people around you.

If someone in your life is hurting you, bullying you or making you feel unsafe, tell an adult that you trust. This can feel scary, but they will be able to help you. YoungMinds have advice on how to have that conversation with an adult.

Spending time alone

Almost everyone enjoys at least some alone time, some people more than others. This includes children and young people. There's nothing wrong with spending time alone if that makes you happy.

The number of friends you have is not the same as whether you feel lonely or not. Some people may only have a very few close friends but feel happy that way, while others may be part of a broad social circle but feel isolated within that.

Sometimes it can take practice to learn how to be a good friend, and how to recognise whether other people are being good friends to us.

The Internet

Recent research looked at the impact of different popular social media sites on young people’s wellbeing. Some platforms ran higher risks of having a negative impact due to potentially promoting unrealistic ideals of lifestyle and body image, while others had a higher chance of making young people feel part of a community of shared interests[1]. A recent Royal Society for Public Health study found that 16 – 25 year olds saw YouTube as having a positive impact on their health including reducing feelings of loneliness, while Instagram was rated most negatively[2].

The internet can be a great tool to help you find people with similar interests to you, but it can also make people more lonely, depending on how they use certain websites like social media.

Read these tips to make sure you’re using the internet safely.

School

School is a huge part of most children and young people'’s social life. Schools have a pastoral duty to their pupils as well as an academic one. If you’re finding things difficult, talk to a member of staff you trust, like a head of year or school nurse.

If you are struggling to make friends with the people in your classes, you may be able to meet more like-minded people by doing after-school activities like joining a club or sports team or volunteering.

Outside School

If you can’t find the right fit at school, there may be other activities in your local area – your local council website, community centre or local paper should be able to tell you more about available clubs and leisure activities. Joining a regular club or activity can help you to make new friends, have fun, and boost your self-confidence. This could be Scouts or Guides, performing arts like drama or music, a sports club, or a book group.

Top Tips

  • Talk to an adult you trust about how you’re feeling.
  • Let a trusted adult know if you’re being bullied.
  • Look out for clubs or activities you might be interested in.
  • Make sure you’re using the internet safely.
  • Pay attention to how your use of social media affects your mood.
  • Remember that loneliness is a feeling, not a measure of number of friends or time spent interacting socially.

Many thanks to YoungMinds for their contributions to this project.youngminds-logo

1. Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, https://www.jocoxloneliness.org/loneliness

2. Bullock, Janis R. “Children’s Loneliness and Their Relationships with Family and Peers.” Family Relations, vol. 42, no. 1, 1993, pp. 46–49. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/584920