Parents Majorly Affected By Loneliness Epidemic, Study Says

Parents Majorly Affected By Loneliness Epidemic, Study Says

If you’re a parent who finds themselves feeling lonely, isolated, burnt out, or otherwise completely frayed, you’re far from alone. In fact, according to a new nationwide study, 66% of parents struggle with these feelings, with many citing the modern demands of parenthood challenging their ability to connect with their peers. The loneliness epidemic has encapsulated us all, it seems.

Earlier this month, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus surveyed 1,005 parents, with two-thirds of respondents reporting that the “demands of parenthood sometimes or frequently feel isolating and lonely.” About 62% of participants feel “burned out by their responsibilities as a parent,” while 38% feel they have no one to support them in their role as a parent.

The overwhelming majority—79% of respondents—report that they would “value a way to connect with other parents outside of work and home,” something that’s made all the more difficult when you’re juggling work and/or school, parenting and other caretaker responsibilities, as well as the business of life. Put simply, parents are exhausted AF, and it’s impacting their emotional and physical well-being.

Anne Helms, a mother of two young children in Columbus, Ohio, told CNN that she works from home and spends much of her time talking to people on Zoom calls. “However, you don’t get the small talk, so you don’t get the, ‘How are your children? How’s it going?’ And you don’t get a lot of genuine answers when you do ask, ‘How is it going?’”

“There’s obvious benefits to working from home—it allows me to avoid a commute that eats into my time with my children and husband in the evening,” she said. “But there are some days when my most personal conversation is with my dog.”

“I’m a mom of four,” said Kate Gawlik, an associate clinical professor at the Ohio State University College of Nursing in Columbus who conducted the research. “My life is incredibly busy. Keeping busy, however, does not replace the need for friendship and more intimate conversations with others who share your interests.”

Given that we’re currently in what health experts call a “loneliness epidemic,” it’s unsurprising why so many of us feel a lack of support in our day to day lives. Pair that with the ever-increasing demands on our time, particularly post-COVID, and the ripple effects can be staggering, as experts point out.

“Loneliness has been shown to affect both your physical and mental health,” Gawlik explained. “So anything from cardiovascular disease to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, even your immune system can be affected when you’re lonely. In fact, one study showed if you are in social isolation for a prolonged amount of time, it’s equivalent to smoking about 15 cigarettes a day.”

And though it can feel vulnerable to seek out social connections as an adult, Gawlik notes how crucial it is. “Parenting can feel very lonely at times, but it will be easier if you have people around who can support you,” she said. “It can be hard to start seeking out connections because, to some degree, you will have to be vulnerable and, sometimes, it will take time and effort. But just take the first step.”
Starting small—say, looking online for parent groups, playgroups, or adult-geared activities like book clubs or recreational leagues that interest you—is a great first step. Even carving out a few hours a month for coffee with a friend or co-worker can help you feel more connected to those around you. And while we heavily endorse getting love from your kids and pets whenever possible, there’s no denying how good it feels to spend an hour enjoying adult conversation with someone else who just gets it. You deserve that. We all do.

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