Many of us will experience periods of loneliness from time-to-time — and that’s normal. But sometimes these feelings of isolation and disconnectedness can persist, affecting our emotional and mental health, as well as our relationships with others.
Who’s most at risk of experiencing loneliness?
While loneliness can impact anyone at any time, some factors can put you at a higher risk or being affected. The feeling is often brought on by social isolation, however this isn’t the only risk factor. Others include:
- Living alone. A quarter of Australians aged over 65 live alone, including almost a third of women aged over 65.
- The recent death of a loved one. The death of a family member, spouse, or someone who lived in the same house, may trigger feelings of loneliness
- Health issues. These can be disruptive to regular routines or leave the sufferer housebound and immobile. Losing independence can often precede loneliness.
- Rural and urban living. In rural areas, long distances and reduced mobility can become a contributing factor to loneliness as people age. In urban areas, a high turnover of residents can lead to a loss of community and connectedness.
What can you do if you are struggling with loneliness?
If you think you might be struggling with loneliness, chat to your GP who will help you identify the best course of action. There are also some simple steps you can take to help alleviate these feelings, including:
- Scheduling regular contact with others: Regular social interaction with loved ones is the best technique for dealing with loneliness. However, if you’re finding it hard to maintain regular connection with friends and family, there are also numerous support services available. For example, Red Cross runs its TeleCHAT service, which offers a regular phone call providing friendship and support for elderly Aussies.
- Spending time with animals: Hanging out with a furry friend has been shown to reduce feelings of social isolation. If adopting a pet is not right for you at the moment, you could also look into volunteering at your local animal shelter.
- Getting involved in the community: Whether it’s helping out at the local youth club or getting into community sports, finding a community cause you’re passionate about could lead to a wealth of new social connections.
Read more about the prevalence of loneliness in Australia here. To see how Medibank is helping to tackle loneliness among hospital patients, see here.