Do you feel lonely?

Do you feel lonely? The answers is likely to be yes, a new survey says

The survey by charity Lifeline found most people felt lonely – and they didn’t want to talk about it.

The national survey, which was released last week and received responses from 3,100 people, found about 60 per cent of participants “often felt lonely” while over 80 per cent felt that loneliness was increasing in society.

However, about 70 per cent of those had never contacted Lifeline or a similar service to seek support.

Loneliness linked to suicide risk

It’s a worrying statistic, as loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher rates of suicidal thoughts and Australia’s suicide rate has just peaked at 10-year highs. In 2014, there were 12 suicides per 100,000 people, compared to 10.9 deaths in 2013, making it the highest rate since 2001.

Researchers have also linked loneliness to other serious health conditions such as an increase in heart disease and stroke.

And it wasn’t just single people who felt lonely either. Sixty per cent of couples also said they had feelings of loneliness, with 44 per cent of those who felt like loneliness was increasing living with a spouse or as part of a couple.

CEO Pete Shmigel said while the majority of Lifeline’s callers (55 per cent) lived alone, usually without strong support networks, the results showed there were also many who felt unable or unwilling to ask for help at home.

According to the results, one-third of the respondents said they didn’t have anyone to confide in, a known factor in increasing suicide risk.

Too much screen time to blame?

Mr Shmigel partly blamed this figure on the amount of time people spend online, instead of making real-life connections with family and friends. One-third of the participants also said they felt lonelier when using 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.

“With recent R U OK? figures showing we spend an average of 46 hours of our weekly downtime looking at our TVs and digital devices, this survey sought to better understand whether digital relationships are positive substitutes for direct relationships with live humans.”

Mr Shmigel says there needs to be more awareness around the issue of loneliness in the community so people know they can ask for help if they need it, whether from family and friends or support services.

“While the findings from this survey are inconclusive, they perhaps show that technology itself is neutral and we must place a greater focus on how we can harness the digital world for the good of our emotional world,” he said.

If you need help, you can contact the following services 24 hours, seven days a week:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

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A special thanks to our contributors

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Caroline Egan

DCM Media, agedcare101

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

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Ian Horswill

Journalist

Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

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Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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Jill Donaldson

Physiotherapist

Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

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Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

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Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.