Adolescence and early adulthood can be demanding. The ties to one’s parents loosens, and at the same time we must handle changing relations towards friends. Many form romantic partnerships, but not everyone. For some this time leads to an increased feeling of loneliness. Studies show that many students of higher education experience loneliness and isolation. How many have dealt with these feelings and how do they develop over time? Results from the Young in Norway study:
In figure 1 we see that the feeling of loneliness increased from age 13 until the mid-twenties. Following this the curve flattened, and fell towards the latter half of the twenties. Everything thus indicates that the adolescent years can be challenging.
Further into the twenties life often falls more into place, and new close relationships start to form, perhaps stable friendships or a permanent partner.
Are there differences between the genders? Figure 2 shows that women experience loneliness more frequently than men. This is possibly due to the tendency where men find it harder to express negative feelings, and as a result decline to report feelings of loneliness.
We have also looked at other factors. What is the significance of being an only child? Figure 3 shows that only children experience loneliness somewhat more frequently in their early teens. When approaching the age of 20 the difference between only children and those with siblings decreases. Towards the end of the twenties we again see an increase in loneliness among only children. These results are consistent with other research. It is possible that siblings tend to have less contact with each other in the transition towards adulthood. At the same time conflicts between siblings fade over time, and they eventually grow closer.
The most important discovery is that many experience loneliness from late teenage years into their twenties. We believe this is becoming more openly talked about, and that research has made important contributions to this development.