Since the summer of 2020, my social skills have become nonexistent and my social anxiety has skyrocketed. I know I’m not the only one. According to the World Health Organization, Covid-19 triggered a25% increase in anxiety and depressionworldwide. 

Back in 2021, aHarvard research studyfound that older teens and young adults were hit the hardest by what they called a “loneliness epidemic.” Here we are, a year after that study was released, still struggling with a growingmental health crisis. And still, the end of the pandemic seems to be nowhere in sight.

The loneliness epidemic

Researchers atMaking Caring Common, a Harvard organization that aims to make the world a safer place for young people, found that 61% of people aged 18-26 reported high levels of loneliness. Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and the lead researcher on the study, was surprised by the sheer amount of lonely young adults. 

“If you look at other studies on the elderly, their rates oflonelinessare high, but they don’t seem to be as high as they are for young people.” 

Weissbourd also claims to be extremely concerned about the wellbeing and future of young people, who are struggling so deeply with findingconnection in a very disconnected society. Again, the CDC released statistics that 63% of young adults reported having symptoms of anxiety and depression… meaning that 63% of young adults are anxious and depressed. 

That number is terrifying. 

Gen-Z: the isolated generation

So why are young people disproportionately effected by loneliness and isolation? There are several contributing factors, but I think the most obvious one is the state of the world we’re currently living in. The pandemic wreaked havoc on our lives: working and schooling online, being isolated in our homes, losing loved ones to a horrible virus. It’s been an incredibly scary three years, not to mention the ever-presentclimate crisis,mass shootings, economic emergencies, and general violence in the world around us.

Another factor I think deserves more attention is the number of young adults who are endinggenerational traumaand embarking on healing journeys. We can’t discount the fact that healing journeys are fucking lonely. Even if you have an amazing support system to rely on, working on yourself is terrifying, daunting, and incredibly isolating at times. I think this generation deserves more credit for the shadow work and healing we’re doing—as we make the world a better, safer place for the future. 

Health risks

As if feeling completely alone in the world isn’t bad enough, loneliness has also been linked to severe health conditions.Social isolationlowers life expectancy, even more so than smoking. It also increases your chance of heart disease by 29% and risk of stroke by 32%. People who experience isolation are 50% more likely to have dementia later in life. And of course, loneliness is directly linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. 

It’s one thing for research studies and health organizations to inform us of the risks and downsides, but it’s another thing entirely to recite the dangers oflonelinessand isolation without providing solutions. Most articles (no hate, just an observation) like to give the morbid details without an ounce of hope or advice for lonely Gen Z-ers… which is why I’ll wrap up this article by listing organizations and apps that can help you find community. (And to be fully transparent, I will list methods I have used myself and found success with!) 

No more lonely Gen-Zers

Making friends as an adult is already hard, but throw in a global pandemic, insane gas prices, and a growingmental healthcrisis, and it’s damn near impossible. Thanks to some amazing (extroverted) people and organizations, there are some really cool ways to get involved in your community and meet future besties. 

  • No More Lonely Friends:In 2021, lonely 23-year-old Marissa Meizz created a social movement with the goal of uniting young adults across the country. Check out theirInstagramorwebsiteto see where they’re meeting up next!

  • Bumble BFF:While Bumble is mostly known as the dating app where girls message first, they also have aBFF featurewhere you swipe on potential new friends to plan friend dates and even group hangouts.

  • Meetup:A classic that recently celebrated 20 years of connecting peple,Meetupis a great place to explore groups in your area. Can’t find what you’re looking for? You can even create a group tailored to your interests and find members with similar interests.

  • Hey! Vina:This app calls itself as “Tinder for (girl) friends,” and that’s a pretty accurate description.Hey! Vinahelps women find community and empowerment by connecting them with like-minded women. 

If you’re one of the 63% of young adults struggling with anxiety and depression, know you’re not alone — even if itreallyfeels like you are. The loneliness epidemic is affecting the majority of Generation Z and while that is a huge number, it really does prove that none of us are alone and provides hope for the future.