More parents are feeling lonely, burned out, new survey says

FILE - Sad father sitting with baby girl on the floor at home.

Parenthood is not easy and it can often be a lonely and demanding job, at least that’s what a majority of parents said according to a new national survey conducted by The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. 

About 66% of parents who participated in the survey said they sometimes or frequently feel isolated and lonely and about 62% said they felt burned out by their responsibilities as a parent. 

"Loneliness has been shown to affect both your physical and mental health," Kate Gawlik, DNP, associate clinical professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing and a researcher on parental burnout, explained. "So anything from cardiovascular disease to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, even your immune system can be affected when you’re lonely." 

Participants said that they felt they have no one to support them in their roles as a parent and nearly 80% said they would value a way to connect with other parents outside of work and home. 

Gawlik stressed that finding community with people who are very likely suffering from the same feelings as yourself is important for one’s mental health and self-care. 

She advised that parents should research online for parent groups, playgroups, book clubs and recreational sports leagues to find ways to connect with people. 

"To have somebody that you can relate to and that feeling of connection that somebody else is dealing with what you are dealing with can be so powerful when it comes to combating feelings of loneliness," Gawlik said.

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Loneliness is an epidemic in America

Last year, the U.S. surgeon general said loneliness can be as deadly as smoking a dozen cigarettes a day. 

In 2023, about half of U.S. adults said they’ve experienced loneliness, as research showed Americans are becoming less engaged. 

Less and less people are socializing and opt out of going to places where one typically finds community such as worship houses, visiting family, and other organizations. 

"We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It's like hunger or thirst. It's a feeling the body sends us when something we need for survival is missing," Dr. Vivek Murthy told The Associated Press in an interview. "Millions of people in America are struggling in the shadows, and that's not right. That's why I issued this advisory to pull back the curtain on a struggle that too many people are experiencing." 

The crisis deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The surgeon general called on workplaces, schools, technology companies, community organizations, parents and other people to make changes that will boost the country's connectedness. He advised people to join community groups and put down their phones when they're catching up with friends; employers to think carefully about their remote work policies; and health systems to provide training for doctors to recognize the health risks of loneliness. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.