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Millennials shun face-to-face conversations for online chats

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by Cancer Research UK | News

29 January 2018

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World Cancer Day
Yasmin and Jason show off their World Cancer Day unity bands.

Millennials are shunning face-to-face conversations, preferring to chat online according to research released today by Cancer Research UK’s World Cancer Day campaign

44% of 18-24 year olds said they felt more comfortable using social media, messaging apps and online to talk to people they didn’t know, with only 37% feeling more comfortable speaking face to face. This compares to just over two thirds (67%) of those aged 55 and over. 

This research shows an increasing generational divide between how millennials and baby boomers prefer to communicate.” –  Dr Rebecca Beeken, University of Leeds

While social media can be helpful in building up contacts, studies show that young adults with high social media usage seem to feel more socially isolated than those who use it less. This is concerning as social isolation has long been associated with increased mortality.

The research also shows that young people are increasingly avoiding face-to-face contact in other areas of their lives.

18 to 24 year olds are roughly 20 times more likely to never speak to their neighbours, than those aged 55 and over (21% compared with 1%).

And 27% of 18-24 year olds have never spoken to someone they didn’t know on public transport – more than five times the rate for those aged 55 and over (5 per cent) – with nearly half (47 per cent) saying they prefer to listen to music on their headphones instead.

As part of its campaign for World Cancer Day on February 4, Cancer Research UK is encouraging people across the country to come together in person to unite against cancer, and wear Unity Band wristbands to show their support.

Dr Rebecca Beeken, a behavioural scientist at the University of Leeds working on cancer prevention, said:

“This research shows an increasing generational divide between how millennials and baby boomers prefer to communicate. While it is no surprise that young people are embracing new ways to chat, and there are supportive communities online, it is important they don’t lose the art of talking to the people around them.

“Social isolation can be associated with poor health and poorer health behaviours, and we know social support is important for adopting healthy lifestyle changes. These changes can play an important role in helping to prevent cancer. That’s why Cancer Research UK is encouraging people to unite with each other for World Cancer Day and get together to wear a Unity Band to help fund life-saving research.

“And social media fans can still get the best of both worlds if they post a selfie of themselves uniting on their channels.”

Yasmin, 45, from Kingston was diagnosed with breast cancer in May last year, just six weeks after her wedding to her partner Jason.

She chose to unite with people across London in support of Cancer Research UK’s World Cancer Day campaign.

Yasmin said: “We didn’t really have a chance to start our married life before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, after surgery and radiotherapy, doctors told me I had responded well to treatment which was a huge relief and now we’re just looking forward to being like any other normal couple. 

“I wanted to support Cancer Research UK this World Cancer Day because the more research we do, the more chances we have to find cures.

“Wearing a Unity Band is a really simple way for people to support this research, and by sharing on social media they can encourage their friends and family to do the same.”

Today, two in four people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, three in four people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.

The unisex Unity Band features a classic reef knot design to symbolise strength through working together and is a fitting way to stand shoulder to shoulder with the more than 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses supported by Cancer Research UK.

More Unity Bands means more research, more treatments and more good news for those diagnosed with cancer and their families.

Unity Bands are available for a suggested donation of £2 from Cancer Research UK shops and online.

Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. Primack, Brian A. et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 53 , Issue 1 , 1 – 8.

Toward a neurology of loneliness. Cacioppo S, Capitanio JP and Cacioppo JT. Psychol Bull. 2014 Nov;140(6):1464-504. doi: 10.1037/a0037618. Epub 2014 Sep 15.