Loneliness spreading on campus

Loneliness leads to higher rates of depression and, in turn, suicide.

Eva Newland

According to research, loneliness among students at universities is becoming widespread. 

In 2018, Katharina Diehl and her colleagues released an article called “Loneliness at Universities: Determinants of emotional and social loneliness among students.” 

The article explores the transition between high school and college and how the loneliness levels of students are impacted. 

“There are two distinct types of loneliness: a deficiency of close and intimate relationships leading to emotional loneliness and the lack of a network of social relationships leading to social loneliness,” they wrote. 

Both types of loneliness can be found in college students, but they must be examined independently because satisfaction in one does not automatically offset the other.  

According to “Loneliness at Pandemic U” by Deborah Cohan, “Nationwide, many faculty members have expressed concerns about attempts to lure students and parents who are understandably desperate for some semblance of normalcy and are prey to the promise of what they’ve long hungered and planned for—to have the quintessential campus experience.”

Sarah Mikles, freshman in dietetics, has noticed the college experience has been very different than what she planned for. 

“With all of the online classes, you don’t get to know everyone who’s in your class,” she said. “I find it hard in the dorms, too, because there aren’t events and no one leaves their doors open. It’s hard to meet people.”

Cohan echoes this idea in her opinion piece.

“In insisting on trying to reopen, it is colleges that have engineered a certain type of lonelinessone I hope institutions, and those that inhabit them, can eventually bounce back from,” she wrote.

There is no question that loneliness is prevalent on campuses across the United States.

According to Diehl, “Loneliness was prevalent in university students, with 32.4 percent feeling moderately lonely and 3.2 percent feeling severely lonely.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made social loneliness more common on campus with less in-person events and classes. This can contribute to emotional loneliness because it is hard to find people to be vulnerable with. 

“My family helped with the emotional loneliness,” Mikles said. “I got close with them because of the pandemic, and I was able to confide in them.” 

Even with a supportive family, Mikles said she still struggled with loneliness throughout the transition from high school to college.

“Losing connections with my friends was really prominent as I left high school,” she said. “It really showed me who my true friends were and who I could emotionally confide in.” 

Diehl’s research also showed that long-term loneliness can be detrimental to health. 

“[Loneliness] has been associated with a greater risk for all-cause mortality, multimorbidity, depression and suicidal behavior,” they wrote. 

Once the COVID-19 pandemic is more controlled, Mikles hopes the loneliness will also get better. 

“I’m looking forward to getting out of my room and seeing new faces,” she said. “It’ll be exciting to get some variety and meet new people.”