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Lonely young adults in modern Britain: findings from an epidemiological cohort study

  • Timothy Matthews (a1), Andrea Danese (a1) (a2), Avshalom Caspi (a1) (a3), Helen L. Fisher (a1), Sidra Goldman-Mellor (a4), Agnieszka Kepa (a1), Terrie E. Moffitt (a1) (a3), Candice L. Odgers (a5) (a6) and Louise Arseneault (a1)...

The aim of this study was to build a detailed, integrative profile of the correlates of young adults’ feelings of loneliness, in terms of their current health and functioning and their childhood experiences and circumstances.


Data were drawn from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a birth cohort of 2232 individuals born in England and Wales in 1994 and 1995. Loneliness was measured when participants were aged 18. Regression analyses were used to test concurrent associations between loneliness and health and functioning in young adulthood. Longitudinal analyses were conducted to examine childhood factors associated with young adult loneliness.


Lonelier young adults were more likely to experience mental health problems, to engage in physical health risk behaviours, and to use more negative strategies to cope with stress. They were less confident in their employment prospects and were more likely to be out of work. Lonelier young adults were, as children, more likely to have had mental health difficulties and to have experienced bullying and social isolation. Loneliness was evenly distributed across genders and socioeconomic backgrounds.


Young adults’ experience of loneliness co-occurs with a diverse range of problems, with potential implications for health in later life. The findings underscore the importance of early intervention to prevent lonely young adults from being trapped in loneliness as they age.

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Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Louise Arseneault, E-mail:
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