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ABC News

Australians who are single or living alone are struggling to cope with strict new physical-distancing rules aimed at flattening the coronavirus curve.

More than 2.3 million Australians live on their own and — unlike people with families, partners or housemates — the lockdown has sentenced them to an indefinite period of no physical contact and limited face-to-face interaction.

Friends for Good, a Melbourne service tackling loneliness, has seen a 200 per cent rise in calls to its hotline since shutdown measures were introduced.

"Many [people who are single or living alone] are telling us that they are very fearful that if they become unwell, or have to be in lockdown, that they have no-one to look out for them or support them," co-founder Patricia Lauria said.

Ms Lauria said the main concerns were loneliness and social anxiety, and people with mental illnesses were particularly affected.

"They are concerned about personal safety and catching germs, are even more afraid of leaving their homes and in some cases have heightened paranoia," she said.

Younger people, city dwellers more likely to be feeling lonely

While most Australians have accepted the need for the life-saving social-distancing rules, fears are growing for the mental health of people cut off from friends and family.

Last year's Australia Talks survey identified young people and inner-city dwellers as those most likely to encounter loneliness.

Bjorn Lindberg, who lives alone in the apartment he now also works from, is learning to adapt to life where he cannot meet people for a drink, or exercise with friends.

"You start realising how much you miss the everyday interaction," he said.

A weekend video call with friends in his native Sweden was his first foray into the newly popular trend of virtual socialising.

"[My] social life is pretty much non-existent from this point on," he said.

"If you're doing this for another few weeks it's going to put a lot of pressure on your mental stability."

Mr Lindberg said he was still coming to terms with the daunting prospect of having no physical contact, and what it would mean to him if the isolation stretched from weeks into months.

"A week from now we're going to be wondering 'how am I going to deal with this, where do you get that physical connection you get with people out and about'," he said.

"Normally you'd go out and have a hug with a friend, but now we're not supposed to do anything.

"Just handshakes probably at the end of this might be a welcome form of contact."

He's also not looking forward to the prospect of spending his weekends in lockdown.

More support needed for people experiencing loneliness, group says

Friends for Good said there needed to be more assistance targeted specifically at lonely people.

The group is also calling for more funding for services catering to people cut off from their usual support networks.

While some are suggesting people turn to video calls, for Mr Lindberg, they are no substitute for real human contact.

Relocating social interaction from the real world to the virtual one has proved an even bigger challenge for people who are less comfortable using technology.

Sparx Wilson, whose work running pub trivia nights has dried up, said he understood the need for social distancing, but living alone made it particularly difficult.

"I'm obviously getting on to sites that I've never known of, like Zoom," he said. "

This is all new to me.

"If I was 20 years younger it would be different because I'd be up to speed with all these things."

Mr Wilson said he was already struggling with the effects of isolation and stage-three lockdown restrictions.

"I'm hugging my pillow," he said.

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