So many lonely people
We are, a lot of us, a great deal sadder, more anxious, more incomplete and more restless than we really need to be because of something very large that is missing from our lives. What’s worse, we don’t even know what this thing is and how much we crave it, because we don’t have the right concepts, experience or encouragement to help us locate it. What we long for and are slowly dying without is: community.Our forgotten craving for community. (6 September 2019). The Book of Life
Currently one in four adult Australians experiences loneliness.
It’s an astonishing figure, but this was a finding of the 2018 Australian Loneliness Report, and it adds weight that many advanced countries like Australia, will face a loneliness epidemic within the decade.
What’s brought about this society change?
We know that our youth, ill and elderly are suspectable to loneliness. But that is not the whole story.
Today almost a quarter of Australians live alone. We use more technology, have lots of virtual friends, and for many our working environment is changing due to the gig economy.
We are establishing ourselves in greater numbers as sole traders meaning many of us are working from home, as freelancers or remotely. Many workers, especially women, are working part-time as they meet obligations including to both young and older family members. And while may older Australians strive to stay out of formal aged care, this has led to a a staggering 2.6 million informal carers.
Many recently retired are looking for purpose and not so much for the grey nomad experience. From the UK Royal College of General Physicians, we know that a GP will see between six and ten lonely patients daily.
This is not an exhaustive list of the sub-sectors within our society facing social isolation and/or loneliness and a parallel gas been drawn between the dietary changes that led to the obesity epidemic in terms of it impact. Researchers believe that by the end of this decade we will have a loneliness epidemic that will impact and cost individuals, society and our broader economy.
The health implications that loneliness and social isolation has on individuals is well researched including specific medical conditions like coronary heart disease and stroke, blood pressure, through to depression, sleeplessness and even early onset dementia.
The health risks are equivalent to smoking half a packet of cigarettes per day. Let’s be blunt – people are dying from loneliness.
But the easy thing is to list statistics and data that tells us so many Australians are lonely.
It seems the hardest thing is getting solutions into place – and the reality is that solutions are sitting right in our suburbs and local communities.
We know that the answer to loneliness is to connect people and get them talking, sharing, learning and being part of their local community and being involved in groups.
Community hubs, having a place to visit and do things with community members will form part of the answer.
We need to provide space to the sub-sects in our community where isolation and loneliness is hiding. Having community-based spaces for our home-based businesses, for our carers, for those going through major (and minor) life transitions, or for those looking for purpose and a place to meet with mates and work on community projects is part of the answer.
We need to use the existing infrastructure in our communities. We need to take back our town halls, youth clubs, sporting centres and church halls. We cannot make the issues of insurance, maintenance and religious affiliation insurmountable.
If we want to solve loneliness, we need to transform these spaces into places that we want to visit, where we talk, nurture and support, share knowledge and connect – and make ourselves well.
The focus of The Loneliness Project is to bring loneliness and social isolation into the focus of communities, government policy makers and corporations. Everyone has a role to play in tackling loneliness.
 Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University of Technology. Australian loneliness report (2018). r 2030 Vision: The best – and worst – futures for older people in the UK (2014)  Campaign to end loneliness (2016). Lonely Visits to the GP.