Kiwis under 30 are the most lonely - study

By Heather McCracken

Women under 30 are the most lonely people in NZ, according to a new study.Photo / Thinkstock
Women under 30 are the most lonely people in NZ, according to a new study.Photo / Thinkstock

They may have text, email, Facebook and Twitter, but young people are still lonelier than any other age group.

The Loneliness in New Zealand report, published by Statistics New Zealand, shows under 30s are more likely to feel lonely than older people because loneliness decreases with age.

The results showed 18 per cent of people aged under 30 had felt lonely at least some of the time in the previous four weeks.

Among those aged 30 to 64 years, 16 per cent had felt lonely, while among people aged 65 and over, the figure was just 11 per cent.

Data was collected through the New Zealand General Social Survey, which collected information from 8500 New Zealanders aged 15 and over between April 2010 and March 2011.

Philip Walker, spokesman for the General Social Survey, said because it was relatively new it was hard to know whether loneliness among young people was a new trend.

But overseas research had found elevated levels of loneliness in youth today.

Mr Walker said the finding needed more exploration, including looking at the role of technology and social media.

"It could be that people's expectations of connectedness has gone up, so we expect increased levels of connection," he said.

University of Canterbury Psychology Masters student Rosemary Carson, who is researching cellphone cyber bullying, said technology could contribute to loneliness.

While technology like cellphones could help young people stay connected, "on the other hand for those who do get bullied, especially cyber bullied, it's quite isolating".

"A lot of the time potentially it is a big contributor to loneliness."

Figures from online dating website FindSomeone also confirmed more young people were looking for love.

Manager Rick Davies, said younger dating hopefuls were the fastest growing demographic on the site.

"Our average age sits around 38 to 39, but it has been slowly trending down," Mr Davies said.

"Over the last 18 months the real growth area is the 20 to 35 demographic, which we didn't see in the early days."

Mr Davies noted that since the report data was collected in 2010 there had been huge growth in smartphones, which meant people were online even more.

He believed online tools, such as Skype, could help people stay connected.

"People can keep in touch with a wide range of friends from all over the world much more easily now. It's like you're sitting in your living room having a chat with them."

Bernardine Reid, operations committee chairwoman for Samaritans, which operates a free helpline, said many of their calls came from people who were lonely.

"It might be that they've got some problem, just all the things people would normally talk to a friend about, but people who are alone are bereft of those normal contacts.

"Those who are very lonely might ring in once a day just for the sake of talking to someone who knows them."

The Statistics New Zealand report also showed people who had not had face-to-face contact with family and friends in the past week were more likely to feel lonely, as were those who lived alone.

Loneliness and poor mental health were strongly related across all ages.

Young people were not as likely to feel lonely because of financial hardship, but among older people, lack of money was a significant influence on loneliness.

Women were more likely to feel lonely than men.

- APNZ

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