It’s an issue that affects all of us at one time or another, but can be especially prevalent at a time when society says we should be most social. Why does loneliness affect so many young people? This article explains it well.

It can affect our performance at university and mean we don’t get the most out of the experience. The article explains that we have moved away from a community-based society, to one where it is now every person for themselves.

“Everywhere, we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism,” George Monbiot argued last year. He believes neoliberalism has created loneliness, and it’s hard to disagree.

Society compels us to drive for self-sufficiency, but that very society we’ve evolved in holds us back. It pulls us apart from one another. In being so obsessed with individualism are we ignoring a core aspect of what it means to be human?

Some ideas for fostering community within university and beyond:

  • Talk to the people around you in your lecture or tutorial, book a study room and organise a group study session where you can bounce ideas off one another. This is a good way to get to know new like-minded people and get on top of that study.
  • Join a leadership programme such as Vic Plus or VILP. Get involved in the Wellington community – give back through volunteering, or in the international community – through seminars, speaker events or experiential activities.
  • Join a club or sports team, or start your own!
  • When thinking ahead to after university, come along to one of our networking workshops and learn how to build professional networks. Widening your circles can have added benefits when you do come to job-hunting.

“Loneliness as an epidemic is inextricably linked to the state of society at any given time,” says Dr Jay Watts, clinical psychologist.

It’s easy to blame social media for the epidemic of loneliness in the young. We can recreate ourselves over and over, promoting holograms that don’t reflect the lived reality of our loneliness.

Social media, Watts argues, also means that people “find it more and more difficult to tolerate compromise and the frustration of long-term everyday relationships, which can leave us drifting outside the stabilisation which social bonds give us”. This displacement, she says, is exaggerated by changing dating patterns. Tinder. “The ease of swiping left, the idea we should not have to compromise, makes these relationships ever more insecure.”

Stigma is loneliness’ kindling. The stigma of loneliness is so ripe that we lie to each other. But saying “I’m lonely” has a domino effect. Others start saying it, too.

Our worldview is not going to change overnight. Possibly not in a generation. So we have to think small, of the everyday. Verbalise our own loneliness, be aware of others’ circumstances and how loneliness is cultivated. Breaking through our awkwardness and calling people that we know want to hear from us. At the root of our loneliness is what Watts calls “the lost fundamental drive” – that is, belonging to a community that registers and cares about us. That’s what we need to remember.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from loneliness, know that there are services on campus that can help.



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