This Is the Exact Age When We Tend to Feel the Most Lonely—and What to Do About It

Everyone has moments when they feel a little down in the dumps and lonely. Whether you're having a bad day at work, dealing with a breakup or simply in a funk, loneliness can be an inevitable part of life, but so is learning how to navigate these emotions when they pop up.

But what happens when the occasional blues turn into feelings of loneliness every day, multiple times a day? This might be a sign of a deeper issue at hand—or it might have something to do with your age and where you live.

According to a recent survey, 48% of Americans felt lonely in 2024; a significant uptick from the 45% who reported that they generally felt either "sometimes" or "often" lonely in 2019. Over in England, they've even enlisted a Minister of Loneliness to address the growing concern in the UK that's affected both adults and adolescents alike.

So at what point in life do people usually start to exhibit lonely tendencies? We spoke with several mental health experts and a psychiatrist to determine the most common ages affected by the feeling and the telltale signs to watch out for.

Related: What To Do When You Feel Lonely

What Does Loneliness Look Like?

While the consensus around loneliness might lean towards physical and emotional symptoms, experts say it can manifest in various ways that go beyond what we can see.

"Emotionally, it brings on feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety and restlessness, while cognitively it distorts our thinking, leading to negative thought patterns, self-doubt and a preoccupation with social interactions and rejection," says Caroline Fenkel, DSW, LCSW, a licensed therapist and teen mental health expert at Charlie Health.

In terms of behavior, Dr. Fenkel notes loneliness can cause individuals to withdraw from social activities, disrupt sleep patterns and bring on changes in appetite or weight. "Physically it can result in fatigue, headaches, stomachaches and increased susceptibility to illness," she adds.

The Age When We Tend to Feel the Loneliest

According to the Chair of Psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, Gary Small, MD, loneliness can affect people at any age. However, he points out that as we age we are more likely to experience social isolation, physical illnesses, sensory impairment and other risk factors for loneliness.

Bronwyn Keefe, the director of the Center for Aging and Disability Education and Research (CADER) at Boston University School of Social Work agrees, adding that there is much evidence citing the high rates of loneliness among older adults. "For example, a survey conducted by the AARP Foundation in 2018 revealed that more than one-third of older adults are lonely (defined as over 45 years old)," she explains. "This prevalence rate increased to 43% in adults aged 60 and older."

Based on the research we have, the age when we tend to feel the most lonely is 60 and up.

With that in mind, Dr. Fenkel says research indicates that teens and young adults can start to feel lonely around the age of 16 up until 24. "These peaks are influenced by life transitions and changes in social roles and networks," she shares.

Given all that we know about social media's effects on teens, Dr. Fenkel's input about loneliness impacting our youth doesn't come as a shock. "In an age where involvement in community organizations, clubs and religious groups has declined, and more social interaction is happening online rather than in person, many young people are experiencing levels of loneliness that were once more commonly associated with older adults," she says.

Related: 11 Phrases That Signal a Person's Lonely

What to Do if You're Feeling Lonely

If you've been growing increasingly lonely lately, or know someone who has, the good news is there are myriad ways to combat the feeling that can be done from the comfort of your own home and don't cost a dime. Keefe suggests starting with the following steps:

  • Connect with family, friends or loved ones. This is especially important for people living alone," warns Keefe.

  • Care for living things. "Caring for pets or plants provides a sense of purpose and improved health," she says.

  • Take care of your body. Get plenty of physical activity (even if it means going for walks numerous times a day), eat healthy, well-balanced meals and avoid alcohol and drug abuse.

  • Get adequate sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teenagers aged 13–18 get 8–10 hours of sleep per night while the advised amount for healthy adults aged 18–60 is 7–9 hours nightly.

  • Keep your mind active. Keefe says completing puzzles, reading and engaging in art projects helps to keep the mind occupied and can improve cognitive functioning.

  • Use calming techniques. Such as deep breathing, stretching, meditation, prayer, taking a warm bath or shower or sitting with a pet.

  • Find ways to laugh. "Watch a TV show, or chat with a friend or family member who brings you joy," she adds.

If you've done your due diligence and are still experiencing the same symptoms after trying many of these steps, Dr. Fenkel notes it might be time to seek professional help by talking to a therapist or joining a support group so you can connect with others who share similar experiences.

"Loneliness is not a disease but a condition that can be managed and alleviated," she explains, adding that with the appropriate strategies and support, people can overcome loneliness and build fulfilling social connections. "Persistent loneliness, however, may require more intensive interventions and long-term strategies."

Next: 25 Things That Make You Happier (in 10 Minutes or Less)