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Loneliness Survey Finds Australians Are Very, Very Lonely

Feeling a little lonely? Apparently, you're not alone.

by Katherine Gillespie
27 September 2016, 12:00am

As Britney Spears once sang, loneliness kills. Image via Flickr user Stefanos Papachristou

If you're feeling lonely, you're... er, not alone. Released Tuesday, Lifeline's cheerfully-named "Loneliness Survey" has revealed Australians' feelings of social isolation are increasing over time.

According to the findings, 60 percent of Australians often feel lonely. They also feel more lonely than ever before, and expect things to get worse—of the 3100 people who responded, 82.5 percent felt loneliness was on the rise in society. A large number of the survey's online participants lived with a partner or other family member, but still reported feeling isolated.

These social problems aren't confined to Australia. Researchers at Harvard University have found that loneliness can be as dangerous to one's health as smoking, and it is estimated that around one in five Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.

Lifeline's CEO Pete Shmigel linked the survey's findings to internet use, social media, and screen time. About a third of respondents said they felt lonely when using computers and social media.

"For a society that is more technologically connected than we have ever been, these results suggest we're overlooking good old-fashioned care and compassion when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing," he said in a media statement.

While admitting that the link between digital relationships and loneliness was inconclusive, he called for "a greater focus on how we can harness the digital world for the good of our emotional world."

Unfortunately, Shmigel said, many lonely Australians aren't seeking the mental health support they need. Around 70 percent of those responding to the survey had not contacted Lifeline or any other crisis service before.

"We as a community need to be more mindful of how the people in our lives are coping, and send a strong message that no person in crisis should have to be alone—help is available," he said.

Lifeline recommends that those suffering from the symptoms of loneliness, which can include feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or thoughts of suicide, connect with friends and family, attend social functions, exercise, and get involved in the community.

It should be noted though that you had to use the Lifeline website in order to fill out the survey, so chances are many people were already visiting the site because they needed support. But with RUOK's recent finding that suicide rates in Australia have scaled a 10 year high, you can't help but think that as a nation, we might be experiencing an extreme mental health crisis. For young Aboriginal people aged 15 to 35 years, suicide is actually the leading cause of death.

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