UAH professor: Post-millennials are loneliest generation

Published: Jun. 7, 2018 at 7:02 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 8, 2018 at 4:00 PM CDT
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Pavica Sheldon (Source: UAH)
Pavica Sheldon (Source: UAH)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A communications and social media expert believes that even when young people have a lot of names in their contact feeds, it doesn't necessarily mean they have many friends.

Dr. Pavica Sheldon, chairwoman and associate professor of the University of Alabama in Huntsville's Department of Communication Arts, recently summarized studies that indicate today's student generation may actually be the loneliest.

Sheldon will share her findings with WAFF 48 News at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Sheldon said students in her social media classes always say something along the lines of "I have 500 Facebook friends, but I do not think I could call any of them if I needed something."

"Most of those friends are acquaintances," said Sheldon. "We meet somebody once or twice and we add them as LinkedIn or Facebook friends. Most of the time we know very little about them, especially if we are not spending quality face-to-face time with them."

She said a recent study indicates social media is not to blame, but our overall culture is that of less time with family and friends and more time with technological devices.

"People who do not have friends that they can talk to face-to-face not only feel lonely, but they lack social support. Lack of social support can cause early death," she said.

Sheldon cited a recent national study published by Cigna Insurance Co. that found 46 percent of U.S. adults report "sometimes or always feeling lonely and 47 percent report feeling left out." Cigna calls those statistics epidemic levels.

Of all the recognized groups, the study said Generation Z (ages 18-22) is the loneliest at 48.3, millennials (ages 23 to 37) had a loneliness score of 45.3, Generation X (ages 38 to 51) scored 45.1, and the Greatest Generation (ages 72 and over) was the least lonely of the groups with a score of 38.6.

"GenXers did not grow up with computers and they played outside; older GenYers grew up pretty similar but had already started spending more time playing computer games," Sheldon said. "GenZs pretty much grew up being photographed and videotaped."

Sheldon will go over more studies during her interview Tuesday. To read more of her report, click here.

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