Parents, especially moms, in the US are lonely, new survey finds

Over 65% of parents in the U.S. say parenting feels lonely, a new survey shows.

April 26, 2024, 4:18 PM

Johnna Castle was in the car struggling to get her two daughters -- now ages 9 and 11 -- to their afternoon activities when she said she felt an overwhelming feeling of loneliness.

"I was struggling to get one kid to one place but my other kid had to be in a different place at the same time and I was figuring all of that out and just feeling overwhelmed," Castle told "Good Morning America." "They say, 'Have a tribe,' and you might have a tribe, but, really, you're alone in doing all of that and it just kind of felt like at that moment, I just wasn't happy. I didn't really recognize myself."

Castle, who is left as the solo parent when her husband travels for work, shared her feelings of loneliness in a video on TikTok that was published in Ocrober 2022, captioning the video, in part, "I love my kids more than anything else in this world but no one tells you or warns you about how lonely it is to be a mom."

Her video has since received over 1 million views and over 1,000 comments, most of which are from fellow parentings relating to Castle’s loneliness.

"This right here... literally been crying all day today because I'm so lonely," wrote one commenter.

"Right there with you, never in my life have I felt THIS alone. I love my daughter but, some days are harder than others," wrote another.

PHOTO: Johnna Castle Castle, a mom of two, shared in a TikTok video the loneliness she feels at times as a mom.
Johnna Castle, a mom of two, shared in a TikTok video the loneliness she feels at times as a mom.
Johnna Castle/@strongmamajohnna via TikTok

The overwhelming feedback, Castle said, took her by surprise and made her feel less alone.

"I was nervous to post because I didn’t want ... backlash on it," she said. "But really it was a positive experience, realizing that even though you know you're alone, having people reassure you that your feelings are valid, you're not alone in this world."

Castle and the fellow parents who commented on her post are far from alone, new data shows.

Over 65% of parents in the United States say the demands of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely, according to a nationwide survey published Wednesday by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

In the survey, around 62% of parents report feeling burned out, while 38% report having no support in their parenting role, and nearly 80% say they long for a way to connect with other parents outside of the home.

Moms experience loneliness most acutely, with a higher percentage of parents who identified as female reported feeling isolated and lonely, according to the survey.

Previous research has shown that chronic loneliness felt by parents can not only impact their own mental health but their children's mental health as well.

Kate Gawlik, an associate clinical professor at the Ohio State University College of Nursing in Columbus and the lead researcher on the survey, said in the days of remote work and busy schedules for parents and kids alike, parents often have to go out of their way to make connections.

“Parenting can feel very lonely at times, but it will be easier if you have people around who can support you,” Gawlik, a mom of four, said in announcing the survey's findings. “It can be hard to start seeking out connections because, to some degree, you will have to be vulnerable and, sometimes, it will take time and effort. But just take the first step.”

Two years ago, when her son was just 3 months old, Jamie Easton took the first step in trying to combat her own loneliness as a new mom by posting a video on TikTok.

PHOTO: Jamie Easton poses with her 2-year-old son.
Jamie Easton poses with her 2-year-old son.
Courtesy of Jamie Easton

In the video, Easton, of Orange County, California, invited any local moms who watched it to meet her at a specific time and location to grab a cup of coffee and go for a walk.

"In the first walk, two moms showed up, and the conversations that we had on that walk dramatically changed my life," Easton told "GMA." "Talking to other moms in the season of life that I was in was something that just brought so much life to me and it gave me hope that I wasn't crazy and I was doing a great job."

Easton was so empowered by the walk that she continued to post on TikTok, inviting fellow moms to walk with her.

By the third walk she posted about, she said 50 moms showed up, each of whom had come on their own, without knowing each other.

As more and more moms continued to show up at more walks, Easton saw the ongoing need and started an organization, The Mom Walk Collective, that now hosts free walks for moms in over 350 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

PHOTO: Moms walk together during an outdoor walk organized by The Mom Walk Collective.
Moms walk together during an outdoor walk organized by The Mom Walk Collective.
The Mom Walk Collective

"Anyone who is a parent knows very clearly that it is one of the most beautiful but one of the most taxing and challenging opportunities in a lifetime," Easton said, adding of why she thinks the walks are so popular, "And to know that you're not alone doing it is one of the most comforting things."

Easton said that even after going on dozens of walks over the years, she still gets nervous each time, acknowledging that opening up to new people, especially about parenting, is a "vulnerable" thing.

She said she encourages any parent to keep reaching out for support because having a community of one person or many people around you can make all the difference.

"Finding that person or people will dramatically change your life," Easton said. "I'd empower them to acknowledge the awkwardness because eventually, the awkwardness will have fruitfulness in relationships."

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