Heart issues, anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide have all been linked to loneliness, and Tauranga's loneliest by a landslide are young people.
The findings came from the Tauranga City Council's Whakahou Taketake Vital Update report which found people aged 16 to 24 years old are Tauranga's loneliest people, with 22 per cent feeling lonely either all the time or often.
This research was a collaboration between the Acorn Foundation, TECT, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council, with the goal of identifying areas and communities needing the most help and for what reasons.
The report found the same age group said 29 per cent of the time they sometimes felt loneliness. This overshot the loneliness reportedly felt by other age groups.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board's mental health and addictions portfolio manager Caleb Putt said there was a relationship between loneliness, health and wellbeing.
Loneliness was associated with poorer physical health, including cardiovascular issues and mortality; mental health, particularly anxiety and depression, but also self-harm and suicide; and a lower quality of life, Putt said.
He said the increasing prevalence of feelings of loneliness across younger generations was increasingly recognised alongside mental health as a "public health issue of concern".
This was not exclusive to Tauranga, Putt said, and was found internationally, which trends downwards as age increases and then rises again above 75 years old.
While there was no single reason for the higher levels of loneliness felt by younger people, explanations focused on young adulthood being a time of significant life transitions such as moving away from home, starting university or work, and entering parenthood.
Other factors discussed in research included high levels of social media use, wider social changes related to relationships and family and increasing financial pressures, Putt said.
Sport New Zealand's 2017 Value of Sports report found 84 per cent of those surveyed believe sport and physical activity brought people together and created a sense of belonging.
It also found 74 per cent said it helped build vibrant and stimulating communities.
Sport Bay of Plenty communications team leader Danene Jones said they worked closely with local sports clubs to help build their capability and sustainability so they can continue to offer great opportunities that bring the community together.
The organisation ran two youth engagement programmes to combat things like loneliness; the Wāhine Toa Sole Parent Programme for young mums ages 18 to 24, and Strength and Opportunities through Sport for 16 to 24-year-olds.
"We absolutely know that being active can have a huge impact, not only physical wellbeing but also on their mental wellbeing," she said.
"When you look at the impact of the last six months ... sport and recreation can be a way [of connecting with others]."
Tauranga City Council's community services general manager Gareth Wallis said the community development team was currently exploring a social isolation programme with several community organisations.
"Loneliness is a community issue, so it will take the whole community working together to address it."
The findings were presented to Instep Young Leaders Group and the Tauranga Youth Advisory Group.
Working alongside the advisory group, ways to increase connectedness will be explored. Brochures had been created to provide information about what help is available.
Wallis said young people left Tauranga for many reasons and the advisory group focused on keeping the youth and gaining a better understanding of their reason for leaving the city.
University of Waikato Tauranga campus student health nurse Alana Johnson saw students struggling with loneliness, stress, feelings of sadness and anxiety.
She helped students deal with these issues and develop strategies to cope.
"There are many factors impacting students which can cause these feelings ... moving away from home for the first time, struggling to make friends and gaining a sense of belonging to a group," she said.
Some students were unable to cope with it, or did not know how to, she said.
The university has a student services team which provides wrap-around support including counsellors, advisers, learning support, Te Toka mentorship for Māori students, and a students' union.
A programme is set to begin next week to show students the supports available to them alongside Mental Health Awareness Week.
On-campus activities this week will include yoga, pet therapy, shared kai, and activities in the wellness room.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.