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two young adults talking over coffee

Loneliness is a common issue on campuses across the country and at Clemson University. The American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment III (NCHA-ACHA III) was conducted here at Clemson in early March of 2020. In that survey, 42.5% of Clemson University students reported significant levels of loneliness. At the national level, 48.8% of the national reference group of college and university students across the country reported significant levels of loneliness. 

We have an innate need to connect with others, and there are times when we may still feel alone, even when we are surrounded by other people. Loneliness may be described as a state of mind characterized by a discrepancy between what we hope or want from a relationship and what we actually experience.

Feeling a lack of quality social connectedness can be painful and can be experienced in different ways. The measure of loneliness we use through the ACHA-NCHA III is the UCLA Loneliness Scale, which asks individuals about a range of feelings or deficits of connection, including how often they: 

  • Feel they lack companionship.
  • Feel left out.
  • Feel “in tune” with people around them.
  • Feel outgoing and friendly.
  • Feel there are people they can turn to.

Avoid the Scroll – For some, social media plays a role in our feelings of loneliness. How many of us have scrolled through our social media feeds and wondered why we aren’t having as much fun as everyone else? Social media often creates unrealistic expectations that may lead us to feel disappointed in our own experiences and connections. A good practice for boosting our mental well-being is to avoid comparing ourselves to others. 

You can start out by just saying hello to at least one person in each class or sitting next to a new person at lunch. It can be hard to take that leap, so consider small steps: start a conversation with someone you find interesting or join a club that interests you. Ultimately you will have to take some deep breaths and draw on the courage you have inside you to go for it! Making meaningful connections takes time. Look for people with whom you feel comfortable being your authentic self.