Why some young people fear social isolation more than COVID-19

It might be tempting to think that FaceTime and Zoom provide substitutes for in-person social outlets, especially for a generation of digital natives who grew up with smart phones. But, therapists say, talking by small screen offers no replacement for a calming hug, and can miss the subtleties of a compassionate expression.

Audrey’s complaint is a common refrain among the adolescent and young adult patients psychologist Lisa Jacobs counsels. It is not that they aren’t concerned about the risks of COVID-19, she says; it’s just that their risk calculations differ.

“They are appropriately realizing that isolation is a risk for them as well — it’s a risk factor for depression, and depression is a risk factor for suicide,” Jacobs says. “And 8% of American teens attempt suicide each year.”

Jacobs says many of her young patients complain older generations failed to address the young people’s fears — of school shootings and climate change, for example.