Loneliness NZ


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Youth and lonely

The physical and emotional transition between childhood and adult is a challenging one for most of our young people (between 12 and 24 years of age). In developing, each individual draws on their childhood experiences and forms the skills that will take them into adulthood. This process of developing brings about a significant amount of instability for adolescents – changing schools, physiological changes, and social changes.

For you, as one of our youths, you are also going through an exciting time of cognitive change – where you are transitioning from concrete thinking to being able to use more complex thinking. You can begin to make better personal decisions, to question authority and society standards, and to form your own opinions. As you consider more about others you form your own ethical standards and you can start considering your role in adult society.

Where we have empathy for you though is knowing how emotionally difficult it is to experience some of the changes…. what should be positive often turns negative. You might be noticing that some of your friends are changing at a different pace from you – whether ahead or behind sometimes it’s not as easy to identify with each other as it used to be! And we also appreciate even with those very well meaning parents, and caregivers, you face challenges; some aren’t skilled enough to help you through your changes. And sometimes, where you haven’t developed the skills of handling conflict well yourself, they misunderstand you.

All this, and often lacking the choices you have to change aspects of your life, brings additional new change… in the form of feeling less belonging, less connectedness… and more loneliness.

So if you are one of the many people who feels lonely as a result of being a youth, or you know of someone who feels loneliness from this, then read on. In fact even if you suspect others might be lonely, and they stoically say they aren’t, it’s worth understanding loneliness and life as a young person better.

Scratching the surface of being lonely

Just as you might find it hard to understand how adults who have themselves experienced being a youth in their former years, it is also hard for them to really grasp how very lonely you might be: what it’s like:

Being bullied

…you have begged your mother to let you dye your ginger hair; she just does not understand!

Lacking trust

…you took on extra chores at work the other day, and now your boss is taking advantage of you.

Feeling embarrassed

... about body changes; how can you tell the teacher the real reason you don’t want to swim?

Missing your people

…not one of your friends – and not even one other Māori – is in this tertiary course.

Disillusioned

…realising that your father is racist, and yet when you point it out he becomes violent towards you.

Being young gives rise to many challenges with regard to feeling lonely…
… and in addition to these, you undoubtedly identify with many of the same loneliness problems that aren’t related to your stage of life.

Prevalence of loneliness

Loneliness is a significant issue for our youth. In fact, you are our most lonely age group. If you are one of our lonely young people we hope it helps to know that you are not the only one.

There are many reasons why young people, like you, may be lonely. You might be part of the 12.4% of our youth who are in limbo…you’re not working nor are you in education, or training. The prevalence of loneliness is much higher for the those of you who are unemployed – and may not have a sense of purpose and a way of keeping meaninfully busy.  And if you are one of the 42.3 % of our disabled youth who is not able to work or study, we empathise with the possible extreme disappointment you may feel.

Column chart showing number of New Zealanders by age group feeling lonely in last four weeks

Exposing loneliness

Feeling socially isolated occurs when people, like you, are not connected into their communities in a meaningful way. Society, other people and we ourselves unwittingly contribute to loneliness.

To name a few, loneliness as a youth might be exacerbated when:

  • There is a dysfunctional support system at home – such as when there is high substance abuse or alcoholism or violence.
  • There are an extraordinary number of changes at the same time – for instance, leaving a school and a town to be looked after by another family member after the death of a parent.
  • There are too few young people in an economically deprived area, reducing opportunities of making genuine friends.
  • You aren’t able to contribute to society as you have been turned down time after time with your many job applications.
  • You struggle living in an overcrowded house where you cannot enjoy solitude.
  • You cannot speak your family tongue well so you don’t join in the conversation with your older family members.

These are very real issues for you;
and some are not quick fixes! So despite these challenges it’s vital you actively find ways to ensure that you – and those around you – are emotionally healthy.

Exhibiting signs of being lonely

Solitude is very important for people to reflect and to come to grips with their situation. Being lonely for short periods is also not necessarily unhealthy. What we are considering is the type of loneliness which is prolonged and might be damaging to an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Some people talk about their loneliness; other’s don’t; Some might not recognise that they are actually suffering from loneliness.

When people are already lonely, having people around you that you aren’t able to connect with on a deeper level, might even make your loneliness worse.

Research has shown that when socially isolated people aren’t getting enough regular human contact that can create problems with their family members and people who they do end up talking to.

This manifests behaviour such as:
  • Reckless driving… you become so absorbed in yourself you don’t consider the lives of the people in the other cars.
  • Rising anger towards your boss… she treats you like you are stupid whenever you ask a question and humiliates you in front of the whole team.
  • Shutting yourself in your room… it drives you nuts when your family want to talk about things you don’t care about.
  • Self-harm… it’s the only way you can alleviate the numbness and feel something real.
  • Distancing yourself from friends… your best friend is now friends with other people and hardly spends time with you; and you feel you don’t belong anymore.
  • Rebelling against your parents… they are always so preoccupied with themselves they haven’t even noticed you smoke.

These are just the surface of the ways you might be showing signs of being lonely… and that you could recognise in others.
So where to from here?

Conquering loneliness

We appreciate…

you all have a unique story.

How long you have been lonely;  What you believe causes your particular loneliness; and what you have already tried to alleviate the loneliness.

To get to the heart of your loneliness we would like to get to know you!

Your personality, your eccentricities, and your values are all part of what makes you feel your loneliness more than some others.

Your next step

We appreciate the trust you would place in us to talk openly and frankly – so we promise no judgements – genuine empathy, respect and confidentiality.

Then when we have understood you better, we can help you move forward. Help you form better connections with your spread out communities, with your friends and your families…wherever they are in the world.

If you are ready to take the next step, click the button to get started addressing your loneliness:

People feel lonely for many reasons. To learn more about other working or studying and lonely categories, select one of the coloured boxes below, or scroll down the “I’m feeling lonely” menu.

Loneliness NZ square I'm feeling lonely logo

With our help you can conquer your loneliness by taking better care of your inner self.

And we can conquer loneliness in New Zealand by better understanding and accepting each other.

So when you are ready…click here.

We look forward to hearing your view of the world!

Stats NZ (2016), “Well-being Statistics: 2016.” Download the data.

Stats NZ (2017), “National population estimates: At 30 June 2017.” Download the data.