What young adults need in order to not feel lonely
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Fontys University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands
Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1229
Background and Objective: Many young adults have experiences with loneliness. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the number of lonely young adults. Loneliness is related to poor mental and physical health outcomes. In this study we set out to discover how young adults cope with loneliness. They were asked to share their personal experiences with loneliness and discuss what they learned from these. The research question of this study is ‘what do emerging adults need in order to not feel lonely?’. Methods: In depth interviews with University students, aged between 20 and 26 years were conducted (N=29 participants; N=31 interviews). Diversity within the sample was attempted through variation in study background, gender and ethnicity. Participants did not have to self-identify as being lonely at the time of the interview. An open, inductive approach was used for analysis. Results: All participants mentioned experiences with loneliness. There is great variety in length and intensity of these experiences. In order to not feel lonely, participants mentioned inter- and intra-individual factors. Regarding inter-individual factors, participants need functional, available social networks in which the ‘inner circle’ is essential for not feeling lonely. They need to make active efforts to be in contact with their social network. Regarding intra-individual factors, participants mentioned they need realistic expectations about others and they need to know and accept themselves. Conclusions: Results are in line with coping theory. Loneliness is addressed in two ways. First, by making active efforts to have and maintain a functional, available network. Second, by cognitive efforts in which young adults learn and accept themselves and learn to formulate realistic expectations about others, making the threshold for potential stressors to Results in loneliness higher. Loneliness interventions for young adults should address both inter- and intra-individual factors.