CEO Blog: Reach out to tackle loneliness and isolation

A single arm reaches out from camera toward a neighbourhood

Many Australian adults are lonely.

The actual figure is 1 in 4. Think about your close friends or family; it can seem quite shocking to realise a quarter of them may feel a disconnection from the world around them.

We are a society where technology connects us across land and sea – instantaneously. Yet evidently, this isn’t translating into connection for everyone.

This has been studied and Australians with high levels of loneliness have significantly worse physical and mental health than those with lower levels of loneliness.

In addition, 1 in 5 Australians are estimated to experience social isolation. Loneliness and social isolation are differently defined, so I’ve tabled the two below to illustrate the difference.

 

loneliness social isolation

A subjective feeling of being apart and alone.

We can be surrounded by others but still lonely, or we can be alone but not feel lonely.

An objective, measurable state of disconnection from important social networks. Social isolation refers to a lack of social contacts, social interactions and social supports.

 

People with high levels of loneliness, as well as those experiencing social isolation, have poorer mental and physical health outcomes[1]. This especially applies with the onset of ageing, and it adversely impacts the individual as well as communities.

So, what can we do to change this?

On Harmony Day I encouraged people to reach out to each other and start looking at the similarities that bring us together.

This seems like a reasonable place to start on Neighbour Day – which is celebrated this Sunday, March 31.

The principal aim of Neighbour Day is to build better relationships with the people who live around us, especially elderly and vulnerable people. Neighbours are important because good relationships with others can transform communities.

Social connection also makes us feel better as it helps prevent loneliness, isolation and depression.

The first tip from the Neighbour Day website is to start simply – say g’day when you see your neighbours. Read the full list of tips here.

Whether in your work neighbourhood, or your home neighbourhood, I encourage you to get involved and take inspiration from Noiseworksreach out this Neighbour Day.

Another day is goin’ out, yeah
A sea of faces cryin’ out
With all we have today
You think we’d stop and take a look now, yeah
All I want to say
Is maybe that we should reach out

[1] Source https://www.anglicare.org.au/media/3948/anglicaresydney_going_it_alone_2018.pdf and http://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2018/11/new-australian-research-reveals-health-toll-of-increasing-loneliness.php.