Video: Generation Lonely

Millennials are bored, stressed and sad.
A look at why the most connected generation struggles with disconnection, with millennial sociologist Jon Callegher. 0:35

This segment first aired in November 2016.

Even though you're connected to myriad people through your devices and social media, do you still find yourself feeling lonely? The problem of social isolation and loneliness is as real as ever today.

No, we're not saying that "technology causes loneliness and isolation". But we do live with this paradox.

A study published last year reported that isolation and loneliness -- and the emotions they engender -- can be, over the long term, as dangerous for our health as obesity, smoking, or alcoholism. With more and more people living alone, the researchers went so far as to predict a "loneliness epidemic." Yikes!

Jon Callegher
It would be easy to assume that unlike the rest of us, the most connected generation -- millennials -- don't struggle with disconnection. But sociologist Jon Callegher, who calls himself an "older millennial", says it's actually the opposite.

"There's a statistically significant greater amount of emotional angst, and you might even say emotional pain," Jon says. "And it's very clear from the data that, compared to other generations, if you were to ask 'what emotions are you feeling today?' millennials are far more likely to say they're stressed, bored, depressed, exhausted, overwhelmed and even anxious."

Jon is a professor at George Brown College and the director of global partnerships at Chillwall.

Jon's also a researcher. Most recently he conducted a study of more than 4,500 boomers, millennials and gen-xers in North America for a company called Qi Value Systems

Jon says his research showed notable differences between the generations:

"Millennials, compared to their counterparts, read fewer newspapers, fewer magazines and books. They watch significantly less TV on the box. They spend less time physically in the presence of friends and family, and an overwhelming majority say they have no contact with their neighbours. They even walk around less in the physical world."

Not exactly surprising stuff. But, that physical isolation may be key to why, just like the rest of us, the most connected generation struggles with disconnection.

"A quarter of millennials reported being diagnosed with depression," Jon says. "I couldn't believe this and I had to look to see if there were other studies that had the same result. And it's confirmed."

He clarifies that the question asked was 'have you ever been diagnosed with depression?' so it doesn't mean that they have depression right now. "But still," Jon says, "it's a very high number."

As a generation, millennials are known to be very connected by digital technology. Why doesn't that offset the sadness, depression, and if not loneliness, then at least isolation?

"The study revealed that millennials don't like being alone, but they also don't feel alone when they're in the digital world where, as far as they're concerned, they're socializing. And again, this complicates what loneliness means."


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