Lonely but not alone

Three out of ten Australians experienced a period of loneliness between 2001 and 2009.

Lonely but not alone

All the lonely people: Loneliness in Australia, 2001-2009  is a recently released report authored by The Australia Institute’s Research Director, David Baker. This research in turn relied in large part on data from the government-funded study, Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA). Loneliness, as defined by the study, is the mismatch between the relationships we wish we had and our current (perceived) reality.

As loneliness relates to our emotional connections, it is not surprising that—beyond the poverty line—money doesn’t play a big part in whether people are lonely or not. A simple message from the report is that it is a normal part of life to experience a period of loneliness. Three out of ten Australians experienced a period of loneliness between 2001 and 2009 and the research suggests more Australians are experiencing loneliness now than a decade ago.

It also appears that the longer the spell of loneliness lasts, the less likely you are to come out of it. Couples with children are more likely to be lonely than couples without although, not surprisingly, single parents and single people are the most vulnerable, with young women on a low income the worst affected.

More men than women are affected, with 36 per cent of men experiencing loneliness from 2001 to 2009 compared to 29 per cent of women. The use and impact of social media is also raised in the report.

The incidence of loneliness is likely to be even higher than the report suggests as, remarkably, participants had to score negatively for all ten questions in order to be categorised as lonely.

Read the All the lonely people: Loneliness in Australia, 2001-2009 report.

Comment - Fighting loneliness

A quick glance at the ten questions used in the Australia Institute’s survey on loneliness tells us one chilling thing. If you answer yes to all ten questions, you would not just be lonely, you would probably also be clinically depressed. So those who answered yes to four or six of the ten questions have a high chance of being very lonely indeed.

It is fair to recognise that loneliness is a normal part of life and we can all expect to experience a period of time when this happens. But how to know when loneliness is not just a passing phase, but a more severe form of unhappiness; one which can take a grip and become self-fulfilling? This is where we hope our friends and family will step up and help us understand that we have moved into a darker space and we may need to seek external help to break this cycle. But the condition of loneliness often means we do not have quality relationships and therefore people who will talk to us about our moods and their management.

Being lonely also means we become defensive with others and will not listen to their well-intentioned attempts to support us. The fact that women suffer less than men comes as no surprise, given the evidence of women maintaining social networks more vigorously than their male counterparts. So what does this mean for older Australians? As the number of single person households continues to balloon, it is likely that many of us may spend twenty or more years on our own at the latter end of our lives.

Having a strong social network is the best antidote to feeling isolated and unhappy. And the best time to create a strong social network is today. How to start? There are many ways, but most of them are far simpler than we suspect. If you feel you are at risk of being consumed by loneliness why not take a stroll down to you local library and read the noticeboard? There will be a myriad of opportunities to meet, work with and help many strangers who are the friends with whom you will soon be acquainted.

Are you lonely? Is loneliness a government issue or a personal problem?





    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Multidisab
    24th Jul 2012
    12:43pm
    For some reason a degree of 'aloneness' yet not 'lonely' has playe as a mayor them all through my life. When I join social networks, the birds of a feather gather together but I am not included.
    When I am in a relationship, the males are so dominant in their ego needs that they have no time for a mutual acceptence as we are. Both were dictators who continually complained, found fault, just like both my parents did.

    The consequence of this is that for myself I cannot truly appreciate a friendship when it does occur, but with some exceptions: there have always been one or two people who were close without interfering with my personal choices.

    In this world nothing is free; it is always a matter of giving, more than expecting to receive.
    Also many of these ideas about 'loneliness' is an entrechted social illusion. Deeply down it is a complaint that has no answer and can be distorted in many ways.

    My answer was and is: make myself my own best friend - inner peace, or harmony with oneself is the logical answer to emotional upsets that only time, or better: letting go of the belief of its seeming reality, will truly address the thought that this emotional suffering is real.
    ariescards
    24th Jul 2012
    1:36pm
    At this moment I would be very interested in receiving future entries to this Forum
    PlanB
    24th Jul 2012
    1:51pm
    I never get lonely in fact I like my own company--I think I could be a light house keeper--I have Friends and have had all my life but they need to go out and about to clubs etc where as I don't
    hhnash47
    24th Jul 2012
    2:46pm
    IF YOUR A LONER THEN THATS ALLRIGHT YOU CAN COPE BUT HAVE A HERAT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HAD A LOVING RELASTIONSHIP FOR MOST OF THERE LIVES THEN CRASH BANK WALLOP ITS ON YOUR OWN JACK AND YOU JUST HAVE TO PICK UP THE PEICES , NOT AN EASY JOB ATT ALL , HARRY , FROM BONDI .
    PlanB
    24th Jul 2012
    3:04pm
    Well I am a widow so know what thats like Harry
    Olivia
    24th Jul 2012
    3:18pm
    If I don't keep busy I get lonely. But then I get overtired, the aches and pains kick in, then I get down. It can be a bit of a spiral, but then I see lovely friends, and it's all ok again! Just got to keep going, I guess! After all, what's the alternative?
    DAWNIE
    24th Jul 2012
    5:25pm
    For all our married lives we have been involved in the dog world. Owning, breeding, showing and obedience with dogs.Now our children have grown up and we have some living overseas and one in the mining industry a long way away. We are not lonely however, we have two beautiful Irish Terriers to keep us company and going to obedience school to give us an outlet.
    Dogs can provide great company as you get older and stave off the lonliness try it!!
    Dawn
    Barbara Mathieson
    24th Jul 2012
    5:31pm
    It should read, alone but not lonely guys ( and gals)!
    I am an alone senior and have been for many years but never lonely.
    I join clubs / volunteer / and generally get out and about as much as I can.
    Sometimes it is quite refreshing to come home for a bit of a rest!
    It's all aobut attitude and being gratefull for what youv'e got
    talofa
    24th Jul 2012
    5:49pm
    you are right barbara m. it should read 'ALONE BUT N O T LONELY'
    i am a bachelor-by choice & have always been single & independent
    & i love this...do what i want when i want & call a friend sometimes
    Happy Alone' talofa
    Pardelope
    25th Jul 2012
    12:33am
    I remained a happy single until I married at age 46. Boy - did that come as a surprise and take some adjustment! We had a happy marriage and spent a lot of our time together especially during the last seven years of our fifteen year marriage - until he died of MSA (similar to MND). It took me at least three years to recover from those seven years and to rebuild my life as a single.

    There is a huge divide between the singles and coupled people, which means that if a person swaps camps, it takes some time and effort to establish new relationships and supports. This can often result in a period of aloneness. If you swap camps yet again, you have to do it all over again. That is just how it works.

    I have never been lonely and I am happy being alone. It requires considerable effort to be responsible for everything, but I value and enjoy my peace and freedom to be who I really am (basically a loner). The downside to being alone is having to rely on neighbours and a few long-term friends in emergencies.

    I observe couples who act like Siamese twins - never letting the other out of sight. They are often incapable of forming other meaningful friendships or of getting involved in activities where singles are accepted. I have also observed people who had children (I didn't) who are disapointed and lonely because their offspring are far away or do not involve them in their lives. Having a spouse or family does not guarantee protection against loneliness.

    I feel sorry for people who rely on others (especially one other) to make them feel happy as unfortunately they often find themselves alone and incapable of being happy when alone.

    People need to be less needy BUT put in a lot of effort toward reciprocal friendships - plus undertake activities they enjoy which are NOT aimed at replacing a lost partner. Needy people, especially when older, often cause people to run a mile. Make yourself happy and you will never lack for good friendships and companionship (if and when you need it). Look for the positives in being alone - and don't allow yourself to fall into "victim" or "outcast" mode. It may take effort, but you can and must do it.
    Fiona
    25th Jul 2012
    3:13pm
    I'm a widow too and it does take some time after to get used to doing things on your own. I made myself join a garden club and from that joined Probus. it does take awhile to get to know the other people and there were times I felt llike giving up but gradually as I joined in the activities more I have become more accepted.
    While not being at the stage yet of being as friendly with them as with my other couple of close friends( who still have their husbands) my youngest has become engaged to the son of another couple who are joining the same Probus group so we always have something to talk about.
    I suppose I'm also fortunate that I have one daughter left who actually likes my company for going out and on trips.
    I guess in my case I had to force myself to go out and make a new network.
    PlanB
    25th Jul 2012
    3:25pm
    I have no problem with going out on my own for a meal OR anywhere else--or with friends if they wish, I never have had a problem with that. I think I am just one of the lucky ones that I am able to do this.
    ariescards
    28th Jul 2012
    2:44pm
    There is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. I am what I call a loner. I enjoy my own company living alone as long as I have an interest that keeps "my head" happy. Such as website designing, forums etc. Due to health I can no longer get out and do the things that I used to do, but even so, I have always been one who needs to initiate any interest that I want to take on. I have never been what I call a follower even when I was young.Today most of my personal socialising is done via the phone with friends in what we call "coffee chats" without even the effort of making the coffee. And I'm a TV buff but need to do jigsaw puzzles at the same time. The challenge I get from doing them really keeps "my head" happy.
    hhnash47
    28th Jul 2012
    3:46pm
    HAS ANY LONEL MALE OUT THERE HAD A LOOK AT THE SENIOR DATEING ON THE NET , WELL I HAVE AND IM VERRY DISAPOINTED WITH THEM THE ONES ABROAD SEAM TO HAVE ALL THE GOOD LOOKING ONES ESPECIALY THE UKRAIN AND CHINA ONES , CAN ANYBODY TROW SOME LIGHT ON THESE OR ARE THEY ALL GOLDDIGERS ? PLEASE REPLY TO HARRY @BONDI THANKS
    ariescards
    28th Jul 2012
    4:32pm
    I might be wrong in speaking on behalf of older females but having permanent male company is the last thing that enters my head. And as far as meeting somebody online, you are certainly taking a risk. A former neigbour on mine (61) met a male April of last year online and by September she was madly in love and engaged but here it is July and she has had to take refuge andis living in a caravan in Taree as all of her money and belongings has gone to this so called male. He was a complete con artist and took her for thousands. But she still says "she loves him". I'm sorry but when hearing that statment, I can't feel sorry for her anymore. She was a fool. So to all of the males who are looking overseas, they need to question why they are looking. Look at my DR. I bet his toy girl American wife can't wait for the funeral bells to start ringing. But what an idiot he looks now with his hair dyed black and wearing clothes that even a young healthy looking guy in his 20's/30's wouldn't be seen dead in. It's time men grew up and faced a few realities of what it like to live alone. They may surprise themselves. Just remember that women outlive men so if a young Asian female wants to get to know you etc. you need to ask yourself a few questions. Starting with WHY?????????
    aquatrek
    29th Jul 2012
    4:56pm
    I am a very strong believer in that one makes of life whatever they want - nothing comes knocking on the front door unless you have invited it/them. To do that you have to connect somewhere at some time outside of the 4 walls that you live in. Been single again for a cupla years but that 'relationship' urge is starting to drive me nuts again lol.
    toot2000
    29th Jul 2012
    6:11pm
    I've been married for a long time and feel very sorry for people on their own. I think loneliness is the most painful, depressing state ever inflicted on mankind and agree, you have to get off your butt and get out - somewhere - anywhere, and interact with people. I wouldn't blame anyone for jumping on the internet to try and meet someone you click with, it's worth a try. As long as you realize most of them are after your money or your house or both - it's not your sparkling personality and definitely not your wrinkly old dial that sparks their interest, but as long as you proceed with caution and suspicion, you should be okay.
    aquatrek
    29th Jul 2012
    7:28pm
    Internet dating:
    connectingsingles; plentyoffish; oasis are FREE
    RSVP and others are not and can be quite expensive although you can contact quite a few people within 4 weeks if you work out the dating site system as quickly as possible. Just be sensible and very careful about giving out your private contact details and always choose public meeting places for that coffee date. Post a current photo otherwise you may be seen to have something to hide. Be honest. Dont lie. That special person may be sitting there typing just around the corner from you !!
    Pardelope
    30th Jul 2012
    4:03am
    If you MUST find someone, be very wary of con artists and parasites - who often use the internet to speed up the process of finding their next victim. Also very aware of the law regarding property.

    It used to be that if you lived together for two years or more and then split up, only then could the other party claim 50% of your assets (including your home) - even if they brought in nothing and contributed nothing financially.

    As some people were ditching their partner (and any kids) just before the two years, the two year clause was removed. Now, if you let anyone under your roof (even for a short time) they can claim you had a relationship and claim half of your assets.

    Also, If you are allowing anyone to move in even for a weekend (as a partner, house-sitter, or friend) you MUST charge them rent e.g. peppercorn rent, or board - AND you must have an agreement in writing. Naturally, you must issue them with receipts and keep your records in a secure place. Having a Title Deed is not a protection.

    I personally know of two people (one male, and one female) who have lost their home of many years or lots of money to pay the person off. In another case, a man returned home from a holiday to find that his son (who was looking after the home) had moved in with his defacto and kids - and refused to move out - or let the father back in. It cost him heaps in legal fees and accomodation costs - and took more than six months. Anyone who is "insulted" or unwilling to pay minimal rent and/or sign an agreement should not be trusted. If they are truly concerned for your welfare, they will be happy to oblige and make you feel more secure.
    aquatrek
    30th Jul 2012
    9:19am
    Hi - I am not doubting that there are extremely dishonest manipulative weirdos out there nor am I an expert on the law but your 4th paragraph seems a bit extreme. How does that concept apply to international swap/share house holiday arrangements [a suggestion elsewhere on the web site for holidays] ? Squatters have been around for millenia and they are not easy to get rid of at times. Yet our legal system still has 'sheriffs'. I have had a boarder and they had to sign an agreement form as that is what I was legally advised but as for getting an overnight friend to sign an agreement and issue them with a receipt seems way over the top.
    Pardelope
    15th May 2013
    3:40am
    I agree (re para 4) - it does seem extreme, but that is the advice given by a solicitor to a friend who was handing the keys over to "friends of friends" who were planning to stay for "just a few days".

    How you do this diplomatically is the question - just like asking to see a potential sex partner's health certificate (a rare request, I suspect). LOL.
    Sweet pea
    14th May 2013
    5:33pm
    What I really miss since being on my own is a female friend who enjoys just going out for a coffee maybe once a week and the movies. I should add that I am a very outgoing female as far as others see me, but I'm not. Even all the voluntary work I do, doesn't fill the gap of being able to sit and talk and share a laugh.
    Pardelope
    15th May 2013
    3:49am
    Finding a true friend (of either sex) "for friendship - or something more" (as the ads say) is very difficult. I think it is a numbers game - you just have to have social contacts with lots of people in lots of different situations. Try different activities and make the effort to talk to as many people as possible. Don't be upset by knockbacks, and try to be interesting and happy.
    aquatrek
    14th May 2013
    5:43pm
    At last - January 2013 I met my soul mate on RSVP. I ignored her 'restrictions' regarding age and location and we are still going great guns after 4 months. Yes she has a heap of baggage but I accept that. I also have my own baggage but we talk for hours and keep no secrets from each other. Even Viagra is in the mix and I just look forward to many many hours of happiness until the end. One of us will of course go eventually. So best of luck to those who are willing to try.
    toot2000
    14th May 2013
    7:28pm
    I'm not sure if this site has a penpal site but maybe it should, people like Sweet pea might meet a lady to have coffee with, trouble is we are thousands of miles apart. But even if not close to meet in person, people could still chat online.
    toot2000
    14th May 2013
    7:29pm
    Glad you've found someone aqua, all the best
    aquatrek
    15th May 2013
    8:29am
    ta toot2000


    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles