Young Australians combating loneliness epidemic

 

Almost one in four Australians are experiencing feelings of loneliness in the lead up to this Christmas following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data.

Released by the Red Cross today, their annual Social Connection Survey reports 22 per cent of Australians are worried they will feel isolated or lonely over the upcoming festive season.

A further 50 per cent of participants who are unemployed or over 65 also revealed they have not made plans for Christmas Day.

Despite the alarming statistics, the survey also reveals people are feeling a growing desire to support those at risk.

"It's clear that Australians have turned to their communities, keeping connections going and making new ones. Many people are clearly showing strong signs of resilience," Red Cross Director of Volunteering, Penny Harrison, said.

A growing number of elderly Australians have reported to feeling lonely and isolated in 2020. Picture: iStock
A growing number of elderly Australians have reported to feeling lonely and isolated in 2020. Picture: iStock

As Ms Harrison points out, over three quarters of participants (78 per cent) said they feel a greater sense of social connection than they did this time last year - a jump of almost 15 per cent in just 12 months.

This is something Louis Foo can attest to.

At the start of Melbourne's August lockdown, the 26-year-old international student made daily calls to the isolated, at-risk and elderly, checking in to let them know that somebody was there and cared.

"A lot of people were very confused, I know because I felt that as well. Collectively we went through a very hard time and felt similar emotions," he said.

The light at the end of the tunnel, Foo says, is now having more time for one another.

"Because we just went through this collective experience it's actually easier to understand where people are coming from and make that connection; we're are able to understand each other a lot more."

20-year-old Dipali Goel will spend Christmas Day phoning the elderly and vulnerable to make sure feel connected. Picture: Toby Zerna
20-year-old Dipali Goel will spend Christmas Day phoning the elderly and vulnerable to make sure feel connected. Picture: Toby Zerna

For those worried about isolation in the weeks ahead, Foo, who is studying social work, says the solution is clear. "Reach out, you're not alone. We all experienced the same year and the same emotions."

Dipali Goel, 20, who will spend Christmas Day making calls to those in need across NSW, agrees.

"A short friendly conversation can change a person's day and make such a difference, it's the recognition that someone is thinking of them. When you talk to them about these issues it just shows that everyone is in the same boat," she said.

Ms Harrison said we shouldn't be entirely surprised by the increase in outreach.

Seventy per cent of the survey's respondents said they want to see better care given to our most vulnerable - including the elderly, socially excluded, those who are homeless, and people hit by disasters.

"The pandemic has absolutely tested us. And it's shown that acts of kindness matter, it's the social glue that keeps us together," she said.

Originally published as Young Australians combating loneliness epidemic


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