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