Are you lonely?

Last week, we ran a touching photo essay about loneliness in old age.

In response, many of our members shared their own stories about loneliness or those of a loved one.

It left us feeling that not enough is being done to highlight the plight of older people who have lost partners or who are feeling alone in their homes, aged care facilities or just feeling separate from the communities in which they live.

Ardnher wrote: “I have a friend who lives on her own. She says she is not lonely, but that is just a facade. Loneliness among the elderly is terrible and the only person she sees is the postie. Her family rarely visit as they are tied up with their own lives and live some distance away. I am firmly of the belief that not speaking to another person on a daily basis hastens dementia.”

Paddington added: “Loneliness takes many forms. Some people are restricted by their inability to travel or go out much. Others have limited funds to do anything like going on holiday or eating out and travelling to family. The internet is wonderful in that it allows a connection to the world and to family. Maybe an elderly person on their own needs to tell her family that she is lonely. Maybe she does not want to seem needy, but she should let them know how she feels. They may not stop to realise that she could be feeling like this.

“Selfishness is another reason for loneliness. The grandparents are no longer needed for childminding or money lending.

“It is sad and should not happen but don’t accept it, do something about it.”

A recent study revealed that one in two (50.5 per cent) Australians feel lonely for at least one day a week, while more than one in four (27.6 per cent) feel lonely for three or more days.

More Australians aged 56 to 65 felt lonely than other age groups. Interestingly, those aged over 65 said they were the least lonely.

And while feeling alone is hard enough to manage, it can also lead to serious health issues. Lonely Australians reported higher rates of social anxiety and depression, poorer psychological health and quality of life, and fewer meaningful relationships and social interactions.

Another study found that loneliness is a bigger killer than obesity and should be considered a major public health hazard.

According to the almost 4 million people and 218 studies into the health effects of social isolation and loneliness, 50 per cent have a higher chance of premature death compared with obesity, which increases the chance of early death by 30 per cent.

Loneliness also increases a person’s likelihood of experiencing depression by 15.2 per cent and the likelihood of social anxiety increases by 13.1 per cent. Those who are lonely also report being more anxious during social interactions.

Loneliness, while not an election issue, did make its way into the campaign. The Coalition, in particular, has promised $10 million to tackle loneliness among senior Australians.

But what should they do with that money? Maybe you can offer some guidance by taking part in our Friday Flash Poll …

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We’d also love to know how you cope with loneliness, or how the Government can best direct the $10 million to tackle loneliness in the comments section below.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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