Young adults across the US participated in the loneliness study.
A new national survey looking at how the COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on young American adults’ loneliness, and it shows “significant depressive symptoms” in 80% of the participants.
More than 1,000 Americans aged 18-35 participated in the online anonymous questionnaire, in which subjects were also asked to report their anxiety and drug use.
The analyzed findings, published in the peer-reviewed Journal for psychotropic drugs, shows that ‘worrying’ levels of loneliness are associated with significant mental health issues, with approximately 61% of respondents reporting moderate (45%) to severe (17%) anxiety.
Meanwhile, 30% of the interviews revealed harmful levels of alcohol. And although only 22% of respondents reported drugs, 38% of them reported serious drug use.
Therefore, response with the provision of mental health care is essential, said lead author, Professor Viviana Horigian, of the University of Miami.
“The confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the loneliness and addiction epidemics in the US is here to stay,” she said.
‘These young adults are the future of the social structure of our country. They should provide access to psychological help, along with the development and dissemination of short online contact-based interventions that encourage healthy lifestyles.
“Addressing mental health and drug use problems in young adults, as well as after the COVID-19 pandemic, is essential.”
And co-author Renae Schmidt adds: ‘If we invest in these generations in the development of cohesion and social commitment, we can address social and physical resilience in our broad communities.
‘Students need online delivery of [relevant] coursework, increasing counseling services and implementing outreach by telecom health services. For young adults not involved in school, aggressive patients should be used by primary care physicians to ensure screening and intervention, including via telehealth. Access to psychological help along with the development and dissemination of short online contact-based interventions that encourage healthy lifestyles. ”
The online survey of 126 items was done between April 22 and May 11. 1,008 participants took part, with the average age being 28 and 86% older than 23.
Each symptom (loneliness, anxiety, depression, alcohol use, drug use) was measured against internationally recognized scoring systems.
To investigate the link between loneliness and mental health conditions, the researchers used a model that looked at the direct effects of loneliness and social commitment on depression, anxiety, alcohol use and drug use. They also looked at the indirect effects of loneliness and social commitment on alcohol and drug use that work through anxiety and depression. In addition, they characterized relationships in behaviors before and after COVID and psychosocial symptomatology.
The results show that most participants who reported an increase in feelings of loneliness also had an increase in alcohol (58%), drug use (56%), anxiety (76%) and depression (78%) and a decrease in feelings. of connectedness (58%).
Looking at general increases in mental health issues or drug use due to the pandemic, most problems were reported by participants as rising, with their feelings of loneliness at 65%, lack of attachment 53%, alcohol use 48%, drug use 44%, anxiety 62% and depression 64%.
Overall, a “worrying” 49% of respondents reported a high degree of loneliness.
Most respondents (80%) reported that they drank alcohol, while 30% revealed harmful and dependent drinking levels. 19% of respondents reported drinking beverages at least weekly and 44% drank bingerie at least monthly.
The team hopes the results will now be used to lead intervention efforts.
“Social prescriptions, which are used and promote the use of community resources, also show the promise of improving social and psychological well-being,” adds Professor Horigian.
‘It can be positioned to then encourage service to others and provide social comfort and reward as a result of contact with others in need.
“These efforts, and others, can help alleviate the problems of loneliness and its manifestations; yet, it can take an integrated, versatile, and collaborative approach, rooted and supported by mental health prevention and well-being promoted through labor force development and intervention development research, to re-attract these trajectories. ‘
Reference: “Loneliness, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Among American Young Adults During COVID-19” by Viviana E. Horigian, Managing Director, MHA, Renae D. Schmidt, MPH and Daniel J. Feaster, PhD, 28 October 2020, Journal for psychotropic drugs.
DOI: 10.1080 / 02791072.2020.1836435
This study was funded by the University of Miami’s Office of the Vice Provost for research.