Loneliness In Australia
Numbers - Stats:
Let’s start with a few numbers and some bits and pieces culled from around the web shall we? This part is not my own work (I will tell you where it comes from if I know) but it is germaine to the whole topic.
We need to know the facts, as far as we are able to ascertain them, before we can do much that is intelligent, don’t we?
There is one school of thought that says there is very little difference between genders in this state of affairs and since that makes things a whole lot easier. we’ll go with that. OK?
There is a difference in age groups though. See below info from VicHealth below, the State Health Authority from Victoria, Australia. I am going with our older group here, the over 75’s. Some of the stats tell us that over 65’s until this 75 age group have less problem with loneliness than all other groups, but that might be for another time.
I am not going to pull out the stats but refer you to the attached document which does a pretty good job of telling you the facts and all the facts. Too many for me to discuss in detail.
Australian Psychological Society (APS) Swinburne University of Technology.
This covers in great detail everything you needed to know but were afraid to ask.
Except, perhaps, something that surprised me. Those amongst us of high IQ (more than 150-160 say, not me, I’m afraid) are more prone to being lonely than those with lower numbers, because they find it difficult to communicate with those of lesser intellect than themselves. They become kind of social outcasts. Interesting?
Neil Howe of Forbes Magazine has this to say:
The scourge of loneliness is an issue that we’re going to hear ever-more about in the years to come.
The Economist/KFF findings add to a wave of recent research showing high levels of loneliness. A recent Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). Fully 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Loneliness isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. In a nationwide survey released in October from the BBC, a third of Britons said that they often or very often feel lonely. Nearly half of Britons over 65 consider the television or a pet their main source of company. In Japan, there are more than half a million people under 40 who haven’t left their house or interacted with anyone for at least six months. In Canada, the share of solo households is now 28%. Across at the European Union, it’s 34%.
Have a look at the attached doc and then at these excerpts from VicHealth.
A New Public Health Challenge Emerges – Some Excerpts for Your Perusal:
Loneliness can affect people at any point, but is more common among two key groups: older individuals aged 75 and above and, perhaps surprisingly, young people aged 15–25.
Figures released in April 2018 by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed individuals aged 16–24 reported feeling lonely more often than people in older age groups. The statistics also identified a particular risk of loneliness among young people who were renting and who did not feel a sense of belonging to the local area.
Although research in Australia is currently limited, a 2015 survey funded by VicHealth found one in eight young people aged 16–25 reported a very high intensity of loneliness.
Why Do They Say They Are Lonely
Social loneliness refers to the absence of a social network made up of a wide group of friends, neighbours and colleagues.
The quality of those social connections is also important. Relationships need to be reciprocal, with those involved both sharing a sense of happiness, satisfaction and self-worth. (In 2012, a team at the University of California published the results of a study that found significant numbers of older people who identified as lonely were either married or lived with others.)
What Does Loneliness Mean?
Loneliness is commonly understood as an emotional response to the perceived mismatch between the amount of personal contact a person wants and the amount they have.
A well-known community initiative that tackles social isolation is the Australian Men’s Shed Association. Its CEO David Helmers says, with a little humour, ‘There are currently 130-odd more Men’s Sheds [987 Sheds] in Australia than there are McDonald’s restaurants. Not that it’s a race.’
The Sheds target men who are no longer in paid employment, through retirement, redundancy or other reasons. Men can come to the Shed to build and repair items for the community, but that’s not the place’s main purpose.
‘The most important thing is the men getting together, building those relationships, that brotherhood that exists in the Sheds. They’re finding new friendships but, most importantly, finding meaningful purpose,’ says Helmers.
Most Effective Way To Reduce Loneliness:
The most effective way to reduce loneliness is to make people feel connected to their community,’. ‘Those communities may not be geographic – for example, they may be online for LGBTI youth or rural young people – but what’s important is they share common interests and develop meaningful connections.’
Holt-Lunstad suggests interventions ranging from a bigger focus on social skills training in schools, to making social connectedness checks part of standard medical screenings. Human Resources departments could prepare workers for retirement socially as well as financially, she says.
Planning out suburbs so they are walk-able and include social spaces where people can meet up, such as gardens or recreation centres, is also crucial. Media campaigns could raise awareness about loneliness while also removing some of the label’s stigma.
Public Health England, in its 2015 Reducing social isolation across the lifecourse report, highlighted that ‘access to transport is also vitally important for building and maintaining social connections’.
Affects of loneliness
‘There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,’ Holt-Lunstad told the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in August 2017, adding, ‘Many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic’. The challenge we face is what can be done about it.’
Holt-Lunstad drew on data from two meta-analyses for her presentation. The first found greater social connection conferred a 50 per cent reduced risk of early death. The second examined 70 studies and concluded that social isolation, loneliness or living alone posed risks for premature death that were as big as or bigger than obesity, smoking (less than 15 cigarettes a day) and air pollution.
‘We know that the impacts of feeling lonely and isolated impede your health, whether that’s your mental health or physical health,’ says Irene Verins, Manager, Mental Well-being at VicHealth. ‘We need to identify the factors that influence loneliness – at the level of the individual, the local community and wider society – to get some idea, or a clue, as to where to look for solutions.
The Health Consequences of Loneliness -Causes and Health Consequences of Feeling Lonely By Kendra Cherry
Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, including:
Depression and suicide
Cardiovascular disease and stroke
Increased stress levels
Decreased memory and learning
Alcoholism and drug abuse
The progression of Alzheimer's disease
Altered brain function
Loneliness can be overcome. It does require a conscious effort on your part to make a change. Making a change, in the long run, can make you happier, healthier, and enable you to impact others around you in a positive way.
Here are some ways Kendra Cherry suggests we can prevent loneliness:
- Recognise that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change.
- Understand the effects that loneliness has on your life, both physically and mentally.
- Consider doing community service or another activity that you enjoy. These situations present great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions.
- Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests, and values with you.
- Expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships
Loneliness and social isolation are important health risks in the elderly
Living alone, health problems and disability, sensory impairment such as hearing loss, and major life events such as loss of a spouse have all been identified as risk factors for social isolation and loneliness.
Some Suggestions for Solutions
If you're not sure how to help someone who is lonely, here are some tips on how to support someone who is experiencing feelings of loneliness. (From British Telecom – Press Association)
- Show them you’re available
Keep in touch by phone, email or in person so they know someone is there for them when they need support. Don’t give up on them if they don’t call or visit you in return, but if they need time alone, try to respect that.
- Offer to take them out
If it’s difficult for them to get out and about, you could volunteer to take them out, for example to a café or to visit a friend. There might even be a local charity who could help if you don’t have much spare time. Just don’t push them into anything, as it might seem daunting to them at first.
- Ask how they’re feeling
By talking to them about how they’re feeling, without leading them into any particular issue, you might find out that something else is troubling them. Try not to make assumptions about why they are lonely – there are many reasons why someone might be feeling loneliness.
- Enlist expert help
Some people might feel more comfortable talking about their feelings to a stranger or professional. If it seems appropriate, you could suggest they speak to their GP or call a charity helpline.
- Be dependable
Missing a visit or phone call may not seem important to you, but could be very disappointing for someone who doesn’t have much contact with others, so try to be reliable.
- Help them discover new ways to stay in touch
There are a huge range of different ways to stay in touch these days, from social media to email and text messaging. If they don’t feel comfortable using computers, you could encourage them to join a course to learn how to use computers and the internet, which are run by most local councils.
- Help them to try something new
If they have a particular interest, joining a group, such as a rambling club, reading group or dance class, could help them connect with like-minded people. If they show an interest in an activity, you could offer to go with them to the first session if they’re nervous about going alone.
- Talk about practical barriers
Barriers such as not having a car, not having enough money or being a full-time carer could be preventing them from connecting with people or getting out and about. Talk to them about what these barriers may be and encourage them to speak to someone.
- Ask other people for help
If you’re very busy or live far away, you don’t need to feel like you have to do everything yourself. See if anyone else, such as a friend, neighbour, relative or charity volunteer, can regularly call or visit the person who is lonely.
- Host a Sunday lunch
Let’s leave it at that for this time shall we? We’ve had a bit of a look at the stats, and what loneliness means. Added to that we have had a very quick look at the mental and physical health effects of loneliness, and some ways to mitigate this whole loneliness thing. And finally some solutions.
We’ll pick up on each of these as we move forward. There is so much to say.
One of the thoughts that comes up in my mind is ‘what do lonely people do all day?’
We should have a look at that in a little while.
If any-one has any input, comment let’s hear it. Are you lonely as distinct from being alone?
How much of you day/week/month would you say you are lonely, and what do YOU do when you are in these lonely patches? Talk soon.