Loneliness becomes a ‘public health issue’

More than half of Australians surveyed reported they felt lonely for at least one day in the previous week (Bigstock)

A new study on loneliness and wellbeing has found that more than one-fifth of Australians rarely or never feel they have someone to talk to, and more than one quarter feel lonely for at least three days every week. Source: The Guardian.

Swinburne University in Melbourne and the Australian Psychological Society are conducting the country’s first research project on the impact of loneliness on physical and mental health, and released their preliminary findings today.

A nationally-representative sample of adults was asked to answer an online survey between 29 May and 1 October. Loneliness was measured using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, considered the gold standard questionnaire to determine feelings of social isolation.

When directly asked how lonely they felt, 50.5 per cent of Australians reported they felt lonely for at least a day in the previous week; 27.6 per cent felt lonely for three or more days. Nearly 30 per cent rarely or never felt they were part of a group of friends.

“One in four (25.5 per cent) do not feel they have a lot in common with the people around them,” the Australian Loneliness Report found.

“One in five (21.4 per cent) rarely or never feel close to people, rarely or never feel they have someone to talk to (22.1 per cent) and don’t feel they have people they can turn to (21.4 per cent).

“Nearly a quarter (24.5 per cent) say they can’t find companionship when they want it.”

Married Australians and those aged over 65 are the least lonely. No significant differences in loneliness was found between men and women, though men reported being less social.

“Australians over 65 years also report better physical and mental health, lower levels of social interaction anxiety, fewer depression symptoms and greater social interaction than younger Australians,” the study found.

Australian Psychological Society president, Ros Knight, said the findings demonstrate loneliness is a public health issue.

“We need to consider approaches to loneliness as part of our health and mental health strategy,” she said.

FULL STORY

Loneliness study finds one in five Australians rarely or never have someone to talk to (The Guardian

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