Communications giant Telstra has called on Australians to start a conversation about loneliness after its Talking Loneliness report revealed 44% of Australians regularly feel lonely and nine in 10 have experienced loneliness. Half, though, are too embarrassed to admit it.
Telstra CEO, Andrew Penn said while it was a significant societal issue beforehand, more than a quarter (27%) of Australians experienced loneliness for the first time during Covid.
“We know the pandemic has had a huge impact on mental health, but now we also know how it has accelerated the widespread issue of loneliness,” he noted.
“Today everyone and everything is connected. Despite this, there are so many people in the community who feel disconnected.”
People are reluctant to talk about it
Sadly, there were many people in the community who were reluctant to speak up about something with significant consequences.
“It could be your brother, neighbour or workmate and you may never know,” Penn said. “That’s why we wanted to challenge the preconceptions about who might be lonely and to encourage Australians to find a sense of connection through their shared experience.”
He believed the Talking Loneliness report was a call to action for Australians to start talking about loneliness and bring focus to what was a growing issue. This would help Australia to emerge from pandemic fatigue stronger as a nation and individually.
To support the fight against loneliness, Telstra has released a series of videos highlighting real stories from nine Australian impacted by it, as well as a dedicated hub with resources and support tools.
The report also found that more than half (54%) of Australians say they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ lack companionship, while a quarter (24%) of people don’t feel they have anyone to talk to, with Gen Z (32%) and Millennials (26%) the most likely age groups to feel this way
Two in five very lonely during Covid
In addition, over a third (35%) of Australians admit they rarely or never feel like they are part of a group of friends, and almost two in five (38%) say they have never felt lonelier than they have felt in lockdown.
The research was conducted in September 2021 in consultation with leading loneliness researcher and clinical psychologist, Dr Michelle Lim.
Dr Lim said loneliness was the next public-health crisis facing Australia. “Loneliness, when persistent or severe, hurts our health, communities and society. We need to work together as a community to combat loneliness.”
“If you feel lonely, it is important to understand that your feelings are normal. Take small [and] feasible steps towards managing your loneliness,” she advised.
You don’t always have to make more friends to feel less lonely – look within your current network and consider how you can improve the quality of those relationships.”