An astonishing nine in 10 Australians have experienced loneliness at some point in their lives, but only 38% have chosen to take action and talk to someone, according to a new study by Friends for Good, Nature and Pureprofile.
The Australian-first study exploring the stigma surrounding loneliness revealed that people are more willing to disclose a mental illness diagnosis than their experience of loneliness, with 87% of people saying they found loneliness hard to talk about and 53% feeling ashamed or embarrassed to admit to feeling lonely. The issue is gaining media attention this week with the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murphy releasing an advisory on loneliness and social isolation on Tuesday advocating for the issue to be treated with a greater sense of urgency.
Friends for Good Co-Founder, Laura Rouhan, said: “Given the negative mental and physical health impacts of loneliness, raising awareness and addressing this stigma should be a priority area for funding from all levels of government and should be given attention in the same way as mental health awareness.”
Men are especially likely to view loneliness as a weakness, while Gen X and Boomers were found to be less likely to have told someone about their experience of loneliness compared to their Millennial and Gen Z counterparts. Only 27% of the older generations claimed to have spoken up compared to 48% of those younger.
Friends for Good National Research and Community Education Manager, Eleisha Casañas, said: "We have been talking about the stigma of loneliness for years, but this research project gives us robust data to support anecdotal evidence and also gives voice to people's experiences.” Experiencing loneliness has significant health impacts; it has been linked to chronic illnesses and increased risk of early mortality and is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We urgently need to address loneliness in Australia and understanding and reducing the stigma surrounding it is a fundamental first step.”
Nature Associate Director, Mikayla Samuels, said: “When people are afraid to talk about something, it’s very difficult to understand the true impact it is having on mental and physical wellbeing. What this study clearly demonstrates however, is that loneliness is something that requires a unified strategy to reduce the stigma and allow those experiencing loneliness to feel comfortable asking for support.”
Nature Consultant, Tony Truong, said: “Our hope is that these insights will inspire action and have a positive impact on both the lives of present-day Australians and future generations to come.
“Our study respondents described the challenges of talking about loneliness, especially when it comes to pride and not letting show that you’re suffering. Other respondents spoke about not having someone to confide in, not wanting to be a burden, and not wanting to show weakness or vulnerability. Responses of such a serious nature really re-affirm the importance of this research.”
Nature will present in-depth findings from the report at the Friends for Good Symposium in Melbourne on 6 June. You can view more about the Friends for Good Symposium by clicking here. .
If you are experiencing loneliness, FriendLine is available seven days a week (10am to 8pm) with volunteers ready for a friendly chat. The number is 1800 4 CHATS (1800 424 287).
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