How Does Loneliness In Adolescence Lead To Depression?

July 4, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team

According to the authors of a new rapid review into the long-term mental health effects of lockdown, “Social isolation needs to end and clinical services are the need of the hour for children and teenagers who are prone to depression and anxiety after lockdown.” So, why is depression more common in adolescence? Let us explore…

Why is depression more common in adolescence?

A study was conducted on more than 60 pre-existing, peer-reviewed studies into topics like isolation, loneliness, and mental health for young people aged four to 21. The report was then published in the June 2020 edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. According to the report, increasing loneliness in adolescence leads to developing depression in the future three times more. Also, the impact of loneliness on their mental health can last for at least nine years.

Furthermore, the studies revealed a relationship between loneliness and an increased risk of mental health issues, especially in young people. It also proved that the duration of loneliness is more important than the intensity of the loneliness as it increases the risk of developing depression soon.

The authors say this should act as a warning sign to policymakers across the globe. The demand for mental health services across age groups is soon going to see an upward trend.

Why does depression occur in adolescence?

Dr. Maria Loades, Clinical Psychologist from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath explains, “From our analysis, it is clear there are strong associations between loneliness and depression in young people, both in the immediate and the longer term. We know this effect can sometimes be lagged, meaning it can take up to 10 years to really understand the scale of the mental health impact the covid-19 crisis has created.”

Dr Loades suggests the research will have important implications for the management of the process. She adds, “There is evidence that it’s the duration of loneliness as opposed to the intensity which seems to have the biggest impact on depression rates in young people. This means that returning to some degree of normality as soon as possible is of course important. However, how this process is managed matters when it comes to shaping young people’s feelings and experiences about this period.”

How to prevent depression in adolescence?

So, how to prevent depression in adolescence? It is a good idea to prioritize the importance of play in helping the children reconnect with their friends and adjust after this intense period of isolation.

The review team members sent an open letter to UK Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP. The letter focused on supporting children’s social and emotional wellbeing during and after lockdown. The letter suggested the following:

  • Easing lockdown restrictions in a way that provides the children with the time and opportunity to play with friends, in and outside of school with social distancing measures in place.
  • Schools should be resourced well and should be given clear guidance on how to support children’s emotional well-being during the reopening period. Both play and academic progress should be prioritized.
  • Highlight the social and emotional benefits of interacting with friends and the objective risks should be guided to the children.

Finally, the letter also highlighted the need to identify the trade-offs that need to be met while restarting the economy and reducing educational disparities.

The letter to the Education Secretary concluded by stating, “Poor emotional health in children leads to long-term mental health problems, poorer educational attainment and has a considerable economic burden.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of BathNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. M. Loades et al. Rapid Systematic Review: The impact of social isolation and loneliness on the mental health of children and adolescents in the context of COVID-19Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2020 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2020.05.009

Cite This Page:

University of Bath. “Impact of children’s loneliness today could manifest in depression for years to come.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2020. <>.

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