22 Sep 2016

The Young and Lonely

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:37 pm on 22 September 2016
Recently, loneliness is the most common emotion expressed by callers to helpline Samaritans.

Recently, loneliness is the most common emotion expressed by callers to helpline Samaritans. Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

The Ministry of Social Development's Social Report for 2016, says those aged 15-24 years had the highest levels of loneliness.

It says, in general, loneliness decreases as we get older. New Zealand Samaritans provides 24 hour, confidential emotional support, to those experiencing loneliness, depression, despair, distress or suicidal feelings.

Bernadine Reid is the chair of operations committee for Samaritans and says the number of calls from people experiencing loneliness is increasing.

“We take a minimum amount of statistics, but listeners note what emotions are being expressed by the callers and loneliness is cropping up a lot more than it used to. It changes places with anxiety, but it’s right up there at the top most months in the last year.”

Social media use can have a negative impact on young people especially, she says.

“They are more and more connected on Facebook or texting and there are dangers in that. It may be completely taking the place of actual conversations. What we know is people feel good when they have had a meaningful conversation.”

It’s those meaningful conversations and connecting with others that will reduce any feelings of loneliness.

“People who ring us get that sense of companionship and often quite deep conversations, but it’s a very limited thing. We’ll be their best friend for the 10 minutes, half an hour that we might talk with them, but really what they need to be doing is going out and doing things. You have to be doing something to make contact with people.”