To mark Neighbour Day, Ending Loneliness Together have launched Australia’s first national online directory to help more than five million people experiencing loneliness find meaningful connections so that they can live healthier lives.
Loneliness is a serious but preventable issue affecting a significant proportion of our community. One in four Australians aged 12 to 89 feel lonely three or more days a week. While it is normal to feel lonely from time to time, when loneliness persists, it can have detrimental impacts on our wellbeing, health, productivity, and functioning in daily life. Research shows loneliness is associated with a 26% greater risk of premature mortality, a 29% increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease, a 32% increase in the risk of stroke, and higher rates of cognitive decline and mental illness. Additionally, people with chronic loneliness are 17 times more likely to have made a suicide attempt in the past 12 months.
Dr Michelle Lim, leading scientific expert on loneliness and Chair of Ending Loneliness Together, says that loneliness is highly prevalent but widely misunderstood.
“Two common misconceptions about loneliness are that it only affects older people, and that you must be alone to be lonely. But loneliness affects anyone and everyone, from all ages and backgrounds. Loneliness is more about how connected you feel to the people in your life, rather than how many people you have. You can be surrounded by friends or family and still feel lonely.”
Dr Lim goes on to explain how these misconceptions can prevent people from seeking more social opportunities for better connection, which is why the new directory has been developed.
“Because loneliness is so misunderstood and stigmatised, when people feel lonely, they aren’t sure how to resolve it or where to go to connect with others. And likewise, health professionals seeing people who are lonely don’t know where people can go to get connected. Our need to connect with others is a part of being human. We need connection to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”
Developed in collaboration with people who have experienced loneliness, Infoxchange and service providers, the Ending Loneliness Directory provides a national database of organisations, groups and services offering opportunities for connection and support for people experiencing loneliness – all on a centralised and easy to navigate website. The online directory currently has over 1000 organisations listed across the country, and users can search based on their role, preferred type of connection and location.
Nick Tebbey, National Executive Officer at Relationships Australia, welcomes the new tool being launched on their national day of action, Neighbour Day.
“Neighbour Day is all about encouraging Australians to connect with those who live around them to grow strong, inclusive and supportive communities. We know having a sense of belonging not only improves our wellbeing, but also contributes to strength and resilience in the face of hardships (such as COVID, floods, bushfires). We see this new Directory as a vehicle for enabling people to join local groups or organisations, meet like-minded people, form meaningful social connections and establish a sense of belonging”.
Kylie first experienced loneliness while struggling with postnatal depression at the same time her older child was diagnosed with autism. She had plenty of support around her, but felt no one understood her struggles. Kylie says this tool would have been a gamechanger.
“I felt so disconnected from everyone around me. But I didn’t know it was loneliness because my hands were so full. My family didn’t understand or grasp the concept of autism thirteen years ago and it was an extremely isolating experience. If this directory existed during my struggles, I would have been able to connect with others going through similar experiences (who weren’t existing family or friends) and felt understood.”
The Ending Loneliness Directory is free to access online via http://www.endingloneliness.com.au/search
About Ending Loneliness Together Ending Loneliness Together is Australia’s national organisation driving a coordinated approach to reducing the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation in our community. Inspired by the UK Campaign to End Loneliness, ELT brings together experts across lived experience, national and international research, government, and service delivery to advocate for change, build the evidence-base and design tools to effectively address loneliness in Australia.