1 in 4 Australians Feel Lonely

Social well-being is when we have good relationships, social stability and a sense of belonging and social inclusion. Yet a recent report published by the Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University shows that one in four adults surveyed experienced loneliness.

Released as part of Psychology Week, the survey of over 1,600 adults found that:

  • many people, especially those who are younger, report anxiety about socialising
  • thirty percent of those surveyed don’t feel part of a group of friends
  • people who are lonely have worse physical and mental health and are more likely to be depressed.

These findings are consistent with previous APS Psychology Week surveys, including the 2016 survey which found that older Australians reported significantly higher levels of wellbeing and lower levels of loneliness and negative emotions than the rest of the population (APS, 2016).

The effect of loneliness

Australians reporting higher levels of loneliness (i.e., those who scored 52 or more on the UCLA-Loneliness Scale) were found to have significantly poorer mental and physical health than less lonely Australians. The impact on mental health is substantial, as shown in this figure:


Loneliness increases the chance of being depressed or anxious about social interactions, and experiencing depression and social interaction anxiety also increases the chance of being lonely. This is consistent with other research highlighting the strong relationship between loneliness and both social anxiety and depression (Lim, Rodebaugh, Zyphur & Gleeson, 2016).

The impact of loneliness on poorer physical health outcomes was demonstrated via poorer sleep, more headache symptoms, increased stomach complaints and more frequent respiratory infections. This is also consistent with previous research (Holt-Lunstad, 2018), and highlights the widespread effect of loneliness on physical health.

Making the connection

People are social creatures who are mutually dependent, relying on others for well-being, just as they rely on others. To be ‘socially well’, people need to love and be loved and be connected.

Social intelligence factors – including emotional intelligence, morals, upbringing, empathy, adaptability and altruism – are important to cultivate for social well-being. Social well-being also stems from things like freedom, trust and equal rights.

It is widely recognised that people with good social connections tend to be healthier and live longer than those who don’t.

Social health comes from regular, positive social contact with family, friends, neighbours, work and school. Belongingness and social contact can also come from:

  • sports clubs
  • community groups
  • volunteer organisations
  • churches
  • political parties
  • special interest and hobby groups
  • gyms
  • swimming pools
  • libraries
  • community events (like fairs and markets)
  • local restaurants, cafe’s, bars, pubs and clubs

Download the full report of the survey here.

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