Scientists have already identified links between loneliness and other psychological issues. Indeed, in the current study, people who described themselves as feeling lonely also reported experiencing anxiety (76%), a loss of feelings of connectedness (58%), and depression (78%).
Of these individuals, 58% also said that they had increased the amount of alcohol they drank, and 56% had increased their use of drugs.
Among the respondents, 30% reported harmful and dependent levels of drinking.
In all, 19% of respondents said they were binge-drinking weekly, and 44% revealed that they engaged in binge-drinking at least as often as once each month.
For the entire population of people who filled out the questionnaire, 80% said they were drinking alcohol. And 22% reported the use of drugs.
“Addressing mental health and substance use problems in young adults, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, is an imperative,” says Viviana Horigian from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.
Her statement is in response to her new study investigating the psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic on young adults. The study found an “alarming” increase in loneliness since the arrival of COVID-19.
In the survey of 1,008 people aged 18–35, 80% of participants reported “significant depressive symptoms” during the pandemic.
“These young adults are the future of our nation’s social fabric,” says Horigian, lead author of the study. “They need to be given access to psychological help, coupled with the development and dissemination of brief online contact-based interventions that encourage healthy lifestyles.”
The study team based their research on an anonymous online questionnaire that contained 126 questions tracking the prevalence of various pandemic effects, including loneliness, anxiety, depression, and alcohol and drug use.
The average age of participants in the survey was 28, and 86% were over age 23. The researchers collected the responses between April 22 and May 11, 2020.
While only a pre-pandemic assessment of these questions in this group would allow a direct evaluation of the impact of COVID-19, the answers supplied by participants allowed researchers to draw some comparisons between psychological symptoms and behaviors pre-pandemic and during the pandemic.