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Loneliness expected to peak this Christmas

Our research shows loneliness is expected to peak this Christmas.

aged woman in hospital looking lonely

With recent Lifeline data finding 3 in 5 Australians are affected by loneliness, Medibank research has revealed the problem hits Aussies hardest during the festive season.

According to the Medibank research, three-quarters1 of Aussies believe Christmas can be the loneliest time of year for some, with nearly 1 in 22 saying they’ve been personally affected during the period.

While half (51%) of those suffering from loneliness said they lean on friends and family for support, 42% do nothing about their symptoms and just wait for the feeling to pass. Additionally, 1 in 53 Aussies say that while they’re aware loved ones are struggling with loneliness, they’re yet to reach out to provide support.

Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan said,

“Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the festive season is a time when there’s an increased emphasis on family and togetherness — which as a result, can heighten feelings of social isolation for some people. Loneliness is becoming more widely recognized as a serious health issue, and it’s important we as a community acknowledge this and support one another — particularly at this time of year.”

Young Aussies most at risk

Two-thirds of Aussies (66%) believe loneliness is a growing issue in Australia, with 78% calling for more awareness of the problem. What’s more, despite common belief that the elderly are most at risk, young Aussies were found to be worst affected, with 83% of 18-24 year olds experiencing times of loneliness, compared with just 51% of 65-74 year olds.

Increased risk for those with health concerns

The research found nearly 1 in 2 Aussies (48%) felt loneliness peaked when they were in poor health, and that loneliness was also likely to contribute to or worsen existing physical and mental health issues (87%).

“Research is increasingly supporting these findings, with loneliness being linked to several psychological and physiological conditions, including depressive symptoms, increased risk of cardiovascular issues, and a weakened immune system. However more than this, we’re learning that loneliness could also worsen existing health conditions. That’s why it’s important all Aussies — particularly the loved ones of those with compromised health — know of the very real impacts loneliness can have on a person, and make an effort to avoid these outcomes,” said Dr Swan.

Of those surveyed, Aussies who’d been hospitalised for an extended time4 felt loneliness was particularly prevalent during their stay in hospital — with three in five patients (59%) saying they felt disconnected from loved ones, and 57% feeling isolated, despite being surrounded by other patients, visitors and hospital staff.

Read more about the prevalence of loneliness in Australia here. To see how Medibank is helping to tackle loneliness amongst hospital patients, see here.

Medibank is bringing Joy to select partner hospitals this month, including Brunswick Private (Victoria), Macquarie University Hospital (NSW), Mater Health Services (QLD) and St Andrews (SA).

1 76%
2 43%
3 16% of respondents said ‘I haven’t done anything yet but think about it often’ and 4% said ‘I’m so busy that I haven’t thought about it until now’
4 Respondents who had spent two or more weeks in hospital in the last five years.

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