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More than 80 per cent of Australians believe our society is becoming a lonelier place, according to new survey results released today by Lifeline Australia.

CEO Pete Shmigel said findings from the national charity’s recent Loneliness Survey highlight the lifesaving importance of caring real-world relationships, as well as the need for whole communities to play a role in combating Australia’s suicide emergency – with deaths at 10-year-high levels.

“For a society that is more technologically connected than we have ever been, these results suggest we’re overlooking good old-fashioned care and compassion when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Of the 60 per cent of respondents who said they ‘often felt lonely’, a large cohort lived with a partner and/or children. This is consistent with Lifeline data showing that, while a majority of callers (55 per cent) to our 13 11 14 crisis line live alone, often without strong support networks, there are many who feel unable or unwilling to seek help from loved ones in their own homes.

“Furthermore, with about 70 per cent of survey respondents having never called Lifeline or a similar service, we as a community need to be more mindful of how the people in our lives are coping, and send a strong message that no person in crisis should have to be alone – help is available.”

With new ABS data on suicide to be released on Wednesday (28/9), Mr Shmigel said the survey was timely in starting a conversation on the social factors that influence mental wellbeing. On the impact of social media on loneliness, for instance, survey respondents were divided on whether it was a positive or negative influence in their lives, at 31.46 per cent and 29.58 per cent respectively.

“With recent R U OK? figures showing we spend an average of 46 hours of our weekly downtime looking at our TVs and digital devices, this survey sought to better understand whether digital relationships are positive substitutes for direct relationships with live humans,” Mr Shmigel said.

“While the findings from this survey are inconclusive, they perhaps show that technology itself is neutral and we must place a greater focus on how we can harness the digital world for the good of our emotional world.”

Key findings:

  1. Over 3100 responses
  2. 60% of respondents said they ‘often feel lonely’
  3. 71.51% of respondents had never called Lifeline or a similar service (27.97% said they had)
  4. The top three living arrangements of those surveyed were: 21.55% – lived with spouse or partner; 21.13% – lived with only a spouse or partner; 19.58% – lived alone
  5. 53.38% said they have someone to confide in when they feel lonely (33.65% felt they did not, 12.97% were unsure / didn’t know)
  6. 82.50% said that the feeling of loneliness is increasing in society. Of these, 44.14% were currently living with a spouse.
  7. The question of ‘Do you feel more lonely when you use social media’ was inconclusive (31.46% said yes, 29.58% said no (the remainder was a mix between ‘other’ and ‘unsure’)

 

For crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp.

Interviews: to request comment, please contact media@lifeline.org.au or 0408 407 376.

NB: Lifeline’s 24-hour telephone crisis line 13 11 14 is pronounced ‘thirteen eleven fourteen’

For crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp