The pandemic has not only had a profound effect on people’s financial and physical health, but on their mental health as well.
Feelings of loneliness have exploded since social distancing guidelines have been put in place, according to a survey by the online community Women’s Health Interactive. While just under 21% of respondents said they struggled with loneliness before social distancing, nearly three times more (58%) said they were “somewhat” or “much” lonelier after the guidelines were in place.
But that said, some groups have been more affected than others.
Gender, age, lifestyle all play a role
In an earlier survey from March-April, more than half of respondents worried about how social distancing might affect their mental health. It turns out they had good reason to be concerned.
While men reported higher rates of loneliness than women before the pandemic, women experienced higher rates of loneliness during the coronavirus crisis, according to the Women’s Health Interactive survey.
Prior to the pandemic, approximately 22% of men struggled with loneliness, compared with roughly 18% of women. However, once social distancing guidelines were in place, 55% of men said they felt somewhat or much lonelier, while almost 61% of women felt that way.
When it comes to age, millennials were most likely to struggle with loneliness prior to and during the pandemic. When asked if they felt somewhat or much more lonely during the pandemic, nearly 62% of millennials said they did, compared with about 54% of Generation Xers and 51% of baby boomers.
Understandably, those who lived alone were most likely to struggle with loneliness, both before and during the pandemic. Among this group, close to 68% said they were somewhat or much lonelier during the pandemic, versus roughly 55% of those who lived with children and or with others.
Interestingly, loneliness increased most among respondents who lived with their children. Within that cohort, a little less than 17% said they struggled with feelings of loneliness before the pandemic while 55% said they felt somewhat or much lonelier during the pandemic — an increase of 229%.
Remedy for loneliness
The survey also looked at ways that respondents coped with loneliness during the coronavirus crisis and how effective their methods were.
Among all respondents, 42% said remote contact, such as remote video meetings and virtual happy hours helped reduce feelings of loneliness. When it comes to the different generations:
- 47% of baby boomers said remote contact made them feel better
- About 43% of millennials said it made them feel better
- Close to 38% of Gen Xers said it made them feel better
Only 6.5% of respondents said they found nothing about social distancing difficult. When asked to name the most difficult one or two things about social distancing:
- Approximately 45% said not being able to see loved ones who don’t live with them
- Roughly 23% said not being able to hug, kiss or engage in physical contact with those who live outside their households
- 20% said feeling isolated in their house
- Almost 17% said the fear of contracting COVID-19
- Close to 14% said being unable to participate in group activities
Methodology: Women’s Health Interactive surveyed 1,043 respondents between April 22 and May 14. Generations were defined as follows: Millennials were those born between 1981-1996; Generation X were those born between 1965-1980; baby boomers were those born between 1946-1964.