In an era defined by remote work and digital connections, young adults from Generation Z are grappling with a loneliness crisis. Faced with the challenge of forming meaningful connections outside traditional social environments, many are resorting to investing significant sums in gym memberships and social clubs to combat isolation.
Lynette Ban, a 26-year-old who relocated from New York to Austin during the pandemic, exemplifies this trend. She estimates spending approximately $500 per month on various memberships and events geared toward making friends and nurturing connections. This includes a $2,500 annual membership to the prestigious Soho House social club and a $500 annual fee for ClassPass gym access, all in addition to regular dining expenses.
According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, over a third of Americans aged 18 to 25 reported frequent or constant feelings of loneliness in the 30 days leading up to December 2022, making this age group particularly vulnerable to the isolation epidemic.
Surgeon general warns of health risks
Richard Weissbourd, a child and family psychologist involved in the study, emphasized the need for support during this crucial phase of life. Young people between 18 and 25 reported loneliness more frequently than any other demographic, underlining the urgency of addressing the issue.
Loneliness isn't just a mental health concern; it also carries significant physical health risks. US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has likened social isolation to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, contributing to health problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and dementia.
Gen Z turns to hobbies and activities
To combat their isolation, many Gen Z adults are embracing new hobbies and activities to meet like-minded individuals. Matt Schulz, Chief Credit Analyst for LendingTree, highlighted the significance of workplace social experiences for young adults, which have been curtailed due to remote work arrangements.
William Cabell, a 24-year-old software engineer in Richmond, Virginia, exemplifies this trend by investing in gym memberships. Cabell spends $70 a month on a rock-climbing gym and $161 at a jujitsu gym, with the aim of expanding his social circle. He believes that the investment motivates him to participate regularly, fostering connections.
Gyms are becoming hotspots for social interactions, with Orangetheory Fitness witnessing a 200% growth in their Gen Z member base from early 2019 to August 2023, surpassing all other generations. Kelly Lohr, Orangetheory's Chief Marketing Officer, attributes this growth to Gen Z's focus on health and wellness, as well as their strong desire for in-person connections.
Gen Z's unique solution
Soho House, known for its mission to facilitate connections among creative thinkers, has reported a surge in memberships among Gen Z and millennials. The New York flagship location costs around $1,300 annually for those under 27, while access to all locations can cost as much as $3,575, depending on usage.
Art studios have also witnessed an influx of younger attendees, with Gen Z showing an increased interest in artistic pursuits. Barley Vogel, the owner and director of Studio Arts Dallas, noted the rise in participation from this demographic.
As loneliness continues to plague Gen Z, the generation is demonstrating a willingness to invest in friendship and social connections, redefining how they form and maintain relationships in a rapidly changing world.