Although the term “social distancing” is supposed to convey the same feeling as physical distancing, it fails to capture the loss that many of us are experiencing as a direct result of being separated from other people. This rings particularly true for teens.
Even while in households full of people, it seems as if some young adults are emotionally disconnected more than previous generations, and it’s concerning researchers.
It’s not a new problem. Loneliness has been a growing issue for many years, with more than 61 percent of adults in the United States admitting to feeling alone all the time even before shelter-at-home mandates were put in place, according to the Pew Center.
While keeping to ourselves helps prevent coronavirus’ spread, humans are social creatures and prolonged isolation takes a toll on our mental health, particularly within the sector of the US population growing into their formative years (15-24).
The BBC Loneliness Experiment, an expansive global study, recently published its results, revealing that self-reported loneliness is highest among young people, particularly those in “individualistic” societies.
And this loneliness is just not self-professed. It can actually be seen in the brain.
One study found, for example, that when mice, a social creature like humans, are stuck in cages by themselves, it changes their brains’ basic composition and causes nerve cells to reduce in size.
Another study pointed out what social distancing during the pandemic has been doing to humans identified that the neural underpinnings associated with isolation are similar to those of feeling hungry: to say you’re “starving for company” isn’t that far off base neurobiologically speaking.