A recent study has found that lonesome teens face more mental and physical health problems than peers who are more socially connected. Belgian researcher Janne Vanhalst has chronicled the sad reality of teens who are chronically lonely.
Vanhalst follwed 730 teens for four years, along with researchers from Belgium and Duke University. Most of the teens had only a temporary sense of isolation. About three percent of them experienced persistent loneliness until it became a self fulfilling prophecy.
According to Vahhalst, “loneliness is a risk factor for many mental and physical health problems. Yet, it is sometimes not taken seriously.” Problems develop when teens pull away from parents and adults in favor of their peer group, which is normal behavior.
“Not all chronically lonely adolescents will become depressed or will experience other health problems,” she said, “but as a group, they are at higher risk compared to their peers. We should not wait until their loneliness results in depressive symptoms before helping them.”
Teens were presented with two scenarios of social inclusion and social exclusion, and asked to give their reactions. Chronically lonely teens were less enthusiastic about being included with a group, feeling that the invitation was just part of a coincidence, being at the right place at the right time.