Loneliness was a popular topic last month when Swinburne Uni and the Australian Psychological Society released early findings on the effect of loneliness on Australians’ physical and mental health. The news is that if you feel lonely – you’re not alone! …. About a quarter of us feel lonely a few days a week.  The Loneliness Report, based on a survey of more than 1,600 Australians also found good news – that married couples and those aged over 65 are the least lonely. 

The report found Australians over 65 years report better physical and mental health, lower levels of social anxiety, fewer symptoms of depression and more social interaction than younger Australians.

Later in the month, not-for-profit,  Friends for Good, hosted a national conference on loneliness, bringing together individuals, community groups, government and academia – to start dialogue on the topic. Patricia Lauria from Friends for Good, said Australia needed a national strategy to tackle loneliness as a health priority – because research shows loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Loneliness is being recognised as a health issue: earlier this year, the UK appointed a Minister for Loneliness. Here, Victorian Upper House MP, Fiona Patten, said the issue is so severe it needs government intervention and we, too,  should appoint a minister for loneliness. Friends for Good runs Friend Line, a phone service allowing people feeling lonely to have an anonymous chat with a volunteer – and it’s available in the evening.

At the end of The Loneliness Report  a sheet on Tips to Connect to Thrive offers practical advice for better interactions with people.  If you’d like a hard copy of the report or the tip sheet, please phone 9911 3592. If you’re lonely, please phone Friend Line for a chat on 03 96633 2740 or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Q Life 1800 184 527, or Headspace on 1800 650 890.