Silhouette of retired man looking through window with transparent curtain standing at home rear view. Loneliness and old human care concept.
CNN  — 

If you feel lonely, you’re actually in good company: Nearly 1 in 4 adults across the world have reported feeling very or fairly lonely, a new Meta-Gallup survey has found.

The new survey, taken across 142 countries, found 24% of people age 15 and older self-reported feeling very or fairly lonely in response to the question, “How lonely do you feel?”

The survey also found that the rates of loneliness were highest in young adults, with 27% of young adults ages 19 to 29 reporting feeling very or fairly lonely. The lowest rates were found in older adults. Only 17% of people age 65 and older reported feeling lonely.

Over half of adults age 45 and older reported not feeling lonely at all, while the majority of those younger than 45 answered that they felt at least a little lonely, if not very or fairly lonely.

“There is a lot of research pointing to the dangers of loneliness and social isolation among older adults,” Ellyn Maese, a senior research consultant with Gallup, told CNN. This survey “is a really good reminder that loneliness is not just a problem of aging — it’s a problem that can affect everyone at any age.”

While there was little or no difference in the reported loneliness between men and women, some countries had substantial gaps in both directions, depending on the country’s cultural context, Maese said. Overall, 79 out of the 142 countries had a higher self-reported rate of loneliness in women than men.

There is a loneliness epidemic

About 1,000 people per country were surveyed from June 2022 to February 2023, through a mixture of phone calls and face-to-face surveys. The countries represent about 77% of the world’s adult population, according to the survey.

The survey also pointed to a December 2020 report from the World Health Organization and a May advisory from the US surgeon general that illuminate the dangers of loneliness, including a negative impact on mental and physical health that could even lead to early mortality.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Ami Rokach, an associate professor at the Center for Academic Studies in Or Yehuda, Israel, was initially surprised by the low number of positive respondents. But Rokach, who has studied the experience of loneliness, believes there may be even higher global rates of people who feel lonely than reported — particularly young adults. He was not involved in the Gallup survey.

Rokach, who also teaches in the department of psychology at York University in Toronto, said that younger people who are in a transitional stage of becoming an adult experience more uncertainty in many areas of life, including “a tumultuous love life, uncertainty about a professional path, and in the process of separating from their parents.” Young adults are therefore more likely to experience more loneliness than older adults who have already accumulated “wisdom, friends, a family which may be supportive, and a community which cares for them,” he said in an email.

What to do to combat loneliness

While 49% of the total adults surveyed reported not feeling at all lonely, over half had answered that they felt at least a little lonely. Maese said that the findings also served as an opportunity to examine the social connections that people still have a strong drive to make following the pandemic.