Background and aim: Experiences of loneliness are common during adolescence and has shown to be related to physical and mental ill-being. One kind of loneliness, existential loneliness, is related to suffering. However, there is limited knowledge about existential loneliness during adolescence which challenges the possibilities in offering adequate support. The aim of this study was to describe the phenomenon of existential loneliness during adolescence through university students’ retrospective written narratives.
Method: This study has a qualitative design with a phenomenological approach. The data consisted of retrospective narratives written by 67 university students in southern Sweden. Reflecting and narrating previous experiences may lead to a deepened understanding of a phenomenon. The data were analysed inductively using a phenomenological method described by Colaizzi.
Findings: The fundamental structure of the phenomenon of existential loneliness during adolescence can be described as feeling empty and lost when being painfully trapped in an alienating borderland in the search for belonging, sense of self, and meaning. Six themes are used to describe the phenomenon of existential loneliness during adolescence: Being lost in a borderland, having no control; Being invisible, feeling abandoned; Being socially excluded, feeling misunderstood; Being in a vacuum, lacking meaning and hope; Being burdened, hiding painful feelings; Being trapped, wanting to escape. Existential loneliness is expressed as an immense and consuming loneliness, and may occur for the first time in life during adolescence.
Conclusion: Existential loneliness is an inherent, but painful, part of the human condition. Adolescents may need support in dealing with the suffering. Though, existential loneliness can be challenging to recognize, and understand. Those who meet adolescents should not pathologize, but rather support, the experiences of existential loneliness. The knowledge created in this study may be valuable when supporting adolescents’ existential health and mental well-being and in the work to prevent mental illness.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2024-May-15
EventHoratio Congress 2024: Courage, Communication and Collaboration in Challenging times - Malmö mässan, Malmö, Sweden
Duration: 2024-May-152024-May-16


ConferenceHoratio Congress 2024

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Health Sciences (303)

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