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Young people aged 16-24 are reported to feel loneliness more often than any other age group. We ask Fern, 24, about how loneliness has affected her life:
My first experiences were probably when I moved away from university, I think it went unnoticed during my university years as I had a massive group of friends and lots of housemates and I just thought of it as home sickness, but once I graduated and the 24/7 group of housemates and uni friends that used to surround me were gone I realised that I was very much alone and lonely. I had no family around and no one to call on when I was feeling low.
I have GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and probably don’t do as many activities as I should, because of this I’ve not really had an opportunity to meet new people in place of friends that moved away after university. I was also in a long distance relationship which meant I also spent lots of time by myself between seeing my boyfriend. I had periods of being very happy and very busy, but also a big contrast of spending days alone.
I think the worse bit is when you’ve had a long and hard day, and not having a welcome when you get home. You never really value having people around you until they’re not around; even knowing someone is downstairs or in the room next door is a comfort. I’ve always hated when I feel down, stressed out or poorly that no one has been around to take care of me. I suffer with migraines and things like not having someone to bring me a glass of water when I’m in bed is horrible, it really makes you feel alone and vulnerable. Sometimes just seeing another human or speaking to someone can make you feel so much better.
I used to phone my mum or FaceTime my family but it’s hard feeling so negative and having them feel so helpless. I did get support for my anxiety and felt that 1-2-1 conversation about myself was really filling a void from loneliness, rather than helping with my anxiety.
I’ve always been into food, and really enjoy eating out. Once I got over the embarrassment of going for meals solo, I actually really embraced it – so 9/10 when I felt lonely or bored I’d go out for dinner. This way I was surrounded by people and atmosphere, I could have a pressure free conversation with restaurant staff about my meal and did something I was enjoying. I guess most people do sport or activities, but this was my way of dealing with being lonely.
I think if you can, definitely take up a sport or hobby. I’ve always been envious of people who are outgoing enough to do this. I also think you need to put yourself out there as much as possible, don’t shy away or choose not to see people because you can’t be bothered. You should take advantage of opportunities. Also – be open with people. On social media I probably looked like I was having a great time and out doing things, when in fact I was always by myself doing these things. If I had been honest with people they might have made more effort to see me.
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