Accelerating Loneliness on a Global Scale

by Grady Dillon


That’s how I felt during my time quarantined with COVID-19 at the beginning of
September 2021. I also felt sluggish, lazy, tired, unmotivated, and generally unhealthy. However,
none of those compared to how alone I felt. Being stuck in a box for 10 days straight and having
no contact with the rest of the world quickly made me feel depressive. While the luxuries of a
private bathroom and shower were enjoyable at first, the joy of those ran out quickly. Other peers
were going to class, socializing in their dorms, participating in sports, and being able to freely do
whatever they wanted. I, on the other hand, was not free. I felt further from that than ever before.
It’s sad to know I wasn’t the first to experience this, and even worse, I won’t be the last. This
all made me feel both anxious and depressed, both unfortunately common problems amongst my

There has been a noticeable mental health epidemic for a very long time now. There are
many theories as to why, such as social media usage. This has been explored through many
studies and research by many scientific journals, including Assistant Professor of Global Public
Health at the University of California San Diego Holly B. Shakya and Human Nature Lab
Director at Yale University, and Nicholas A. Christakis with the Harvard Business Review. Their
study explored both online and offline connections and their effects on 5,208 adults over a two-
year period (Nicholas and Shakya, 2017). They were generally seeing if such connections had a
positive or negative correlation to someone’s mental health, happiness, and overall wellbeing
(Nicholas and Shakya, 2017). The study measured changes in Facebook usage over time, life
satisfaction, self-reported mental and physical health, and body-mass index. (Nicholas and
Shakya, 2017). Facebook usage was measured by the number of likes, posts, and clicked links these adults had, as well as how those changed over time (Nicholas and Shakya, 2017).

Nicholas and Shakya found that real-world social connections had a positive influence on individuals’
lives; however, Facebook users had a much more negative impact on individuals’ mental health,
happiness, and overall wellbeing (Nicholas and Shakya, 2017). There was also a direct
correlation between liking posts and clicking links that decreased individuals’ lives over time
(Nicholas and Shakya, 2017). The main takeaway from all of this is the overall decline in mental
health. I used social media as an example to represent how widespread and common the issue
has become, especially with almost everyone in modern society using social media every day,
multiple times a day. Social media is simply a single catalyst for this evolving mental health
epidemic out of the countless other factors.

In 2020, over one in six adults between 18 and 25 years old had at least one major
depressive episode (National Institute of Mental Health, 2020). It has become very prevalent
among young people, especially during the pandemic. 36% of Americans said between
September and October 2020, they felt lonely frequently or almost all the time or all the time
(Making Caring Common Project, 2020). 61% of young people between 18 and 25 years old said
they felt lonely to the same extent (Making Caring Common Project, 2020). Loneliness was
already an epidemic before the pandemic, but the latter has accelerated the issue even further.
This is a huge issue because loneliness has a direct correlation to shorter life spans and a
significantly lower quality of life, as well as depression and anxiety.

Some organizations are attempting to combat this crisis, such as the international
nonprofit Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). According to their website,
their focus is on improving people’s overall quality of life despite experiencing anxiety,
depression, and/or other psychological issues (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2022). They accept online donations and help such people find therapy (Anxiety and Depression
Association of America, 2022). Their goal with these funds is to educate clients about various
treatments and information that will help them (Anxiety and Depression Association of America,

While the ADAA is doing great work to combat the widespread epidemic of anxiety and
depression, they could still use your help. Consider donating to this beneficial organization for
over 25 million people that visit their website every year (Anxiety and Depression Association of
America, 2021). Mental health is just as important as physical health, so let’s do what we can to
help those around us and start focusing on solutions.

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