New Medibank research reveals majority of Australians are lonely
- Research by Medibank found 1-in-3 Australians are classified with high-level* loneliness
- Over 2-in-3 Aussies find it hard to identify loneliness in themselves or in others
- Young and single Aussies are the most lonely, and aren’t looking to manage it
- To help Aussies start the conversation on loneliness, Medibank has announced the launch of We Are Lonely, a podcast featuring guests Hugo Weaving, Briggs, Tash Sultana, Patricia Piccinini, Darren Hayes and others
Medibank has released new research revealing that as the pandemic enters its third calendar year, not only are more Australians self-reporting as feeling lonely, they are feeling lonelier for longer.
The report revealed more than half of Australians surveyed (53%) feel lonely on one or more days during a typical week, with 25% of respondents citing the feeling of loneliness on three or more days. On top of this, the report revealed 1-in-3 were classified with a high level of loneliness*, an increase from 1-in-4 in 2020.
Speaking to over 1,000 Australians, the research reveals how loneliness has evolved from early pandemic times.
When it comes to recognising feelings of loneliness, the vast majority of Australians surveyed (2-in-3) find it hard to spot loneliness in themselves or in others. Lack of understanding around the issue is prevalent, with many Australians facing challenges in identifying and describing loneliness.
Nearly half of all respondents (44%) believe that loneliness has no specific features, while 69% say loneliness is something that’s hard to see or identify in yourself or in others.
Furthermore, the research found that the main personal impact of loneliness is on health and relationships. The majority (56%) of those who experience loneliness say it impacts their personal health, while 46% say it impacts their personal relationships.
Researcher at the University of Melbourne, Dr Frederic Kiernan says, “Loneliness is a complex feeling and while not all loneliness is created equally, the pandemic has certainly amplified how many people experience it and how often.
The new research highlights the misconceptions and misunderstandings around the loneliness experience, and also the denial that so many struggle to face. Now more than ever, people will need new ways to support their mental health and, as a result, improve their physical wellbeing.
Among those who self-report as being lonely, young, single people are a cohort of concern. While 73% of young, single people self-report as experiencing loneliness, only 36% are looking for ways to manage it. Unsurprisingly, loneliness levels are lower amongst those who are ‘settling down’ as a couple (66%), established families (57%), elderly and alone people (47%) and elderly and partnered people (29%).
The research also found, when it comes to reducing the loneliness experience, top barriers are fear of burdening others (28%), finding the words to describe the feeling properly (22%) and feeling that people won’t ‘get it’ (20%).
To explore the theme of loneliness and drive positive conversations around mental health and wellbeing, Medibank has announced the launch of its new podcast series, We Are Lonely. Hosted by radio/TV personality Myf Warhurst and Dr Frederic Kiernan, the podcast series features in-depth interviews with Australian artists, actors and entertainers.
Speaking on the podcast, award winning Actor Hugo Weaving AO shares his experience of loneliness and how it helped him creatively shape the various characters he’s played across his outstanding career.
“I think it’s that terrible fear we have that we’re alone, and therefore that means that’s awful,” says Weaving.
Being alone doesn’t have to be awful. And part of the joy of life is trying to connect, actually, and trying to creatively connect.
“...In a way you could say that loneliness is actually a key ingredient for creativity. If you look at it in the most positive way. Why do we create? Why do we create an order to connect with other people? Why do we create art or music, or why do we act out shows for other people? To connect with them, to express something about who we are.”
Other big Australian names confirmed in the episodic line-up include Patricia Piccinini, Darren Hayes, Tash Sultana, and Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs, who reveals stories from his childhood and music career, as well as what loneliness means to him.
“I think that loneliness is about that lack of connection with someone else or what's around you, and trying to differentiate what's loneliness, what's isolation, and alienation as well. I feel more isolated than I do lonely,” says Briggs.
All episodes explore guests’ personal experiences with loneliness and provide insight into how these feelings are an experience shared by everyone.
*High-level loneliness is determined using the UCLA scale as those scoring 52points+
About the research
Research commissioned by FiftyFive5 on behalf of Medibank. Research was conducted in October 2021, among a sample of (n=1,298) Australians. *High-level loneliness is categorised as a person who scores 52points+ on the UCLA scale
About We Are Lonely
We Are Lonely is a podcast that seeks to demystify loneliness by revealing it in songs, film, books and art. Hosts Myf Warhurst and Dr Frederic Kiernan talk to celebrated musicians, artists and actors to understand the many kinds of loneliness that exists in popular culture. With guests including Hugo Weaving, Briggs, Tash Sultana, Patricia Piccinini and Darren Hayes the series delves into the art and the science of what it means to be lonely in Australia and the natural role it plays in our lives.
This podcast contains references to themes which some listeners may find confronting. Please reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.
Additional quotes from Hugo Weaving, from the podcast We Are Lonely
On balancing feelings of self-doubt
“’Where’s my next job coming from?’ That’s the sort of classic, pathetic, oh, but actually real, thing that actors go though, it’s like I don’t know where because we’re interpretive creative artists, if you like, so we’re sort of really reliant upon other people going, ‘Hugo, would you like to come and do this job?”
“So that’s always the worst time for me, in terms of feeling alone or feeling unvalidated, or unworthy. All of those feelings, emotions are associated with loneliness. So when you’re alone, you can become lonely, if you feel that no one loves you, and no one wants you, and no one cares about you, and you may as well not be here. So, it’s all those emotive attachments we make to being on our own that actually are the danger.”
On finding validation
“You have a family, and you have a place, you have a location, you have a reason to be, there’s a schedule every day, you have a performance every night, or whatever. And so you’re validated, and you have purpose. And without purpose, we’re often robbed of our agency, and we’re robbed of our sense of worth, I think.”
Additional quotes from Briggs, from the podcast We Are Lonely
On managing loneliness
“Well, it helps with loneliness because you're never alone, you know what I mean, and I think also, it's a very spiritual community, and not in the naff sense of, "I'm going to find my tribe," and it's not Byron Bay spiritual. [Laughs] I feel like because – but as a kid, being told, "Your ancestors are watching, your grandfather does this or done that," it was always a sense of presence of family.”
“I have to remind myself that – everyone's complicated and sophisticated in their own way and has their own thing, but not everyone is going to be as cerebral as yourself, right, or – and assign to your narrative. So again, it was a – the last two years was a good one because it was like bang. Everything you thought you were doing is nothing now. Everything you thought you were going to do for the next 18 months and whatever, whatever is done. So it was a good lesson to learn. It was a hard lesson to learn for some people, but I welcomed the lockdown for a little bit. It got annoying, of course, like anybody else, but the idea of being able to take that and be like, "Look, you've got to focus on what's important," you know what I mean. And it was a good lesson for me to slow down and do good work rather than all the work.