RESOURCES FOR ORGANISATIONS
It is about the disparity between ideal and actual social relationships especially in terms of the quality of connection2. Prevalence estimates indicate many Australians experience high levels of loneliness and it impacts people from all walks of life3.
Loneliness can be transient or chronic. A wealth of international research suggests chronic loneliness is damaging to many aspects of physical and mental health4. It has been related to higher risk for early mortality5. It is therefore vitally important that community service providers (and any who are in contact with those who are experiencing high levels of loneliness) focus on intervening and helping alleviate loneliness.
We know that people from all walks of life experience loneliness and most people are likely to experience it at some point across their lifespan.
Although it impacts many people, there are certain indicators that have been associated with chronic loneliness6. That is, across research studies and when studying different groups of people, certain demographic/ social characteristics have been associated with higher levels of loneliness.
Some of these include:
As mentioned, loneliness is a subjective experience and has a range of causes so identifying risk factors alone is not sufficient. Further assessment to determine whether those individuals are in fact experiencing loneliness and what the best intervention might be is then needed. Some people may tell you that they are lonely, or it may be easy to elicit in a conversation, but if not then formal measurement tools may assist.
There are measurement scales that have been devised to assess the level of loneliness or isolation that a person may be experiencing. These range from 3-questions to longer 20-question measures7. The benefits of using such tools includes allowing comparisons to other research samples and looking at changes in loneliness over time. The disadvantages include the resistance of people to self-report loneliness and the possibility that attempting to measure their experiences in this way may increase a feeling of stigmatisation and alienation8.
Most interventions can fit into four broad categories13, these include:
Some suggestions for intervention in Australia include:
Friends for Good is a founding member of the alliance of organisations tackling loneliness together. If you or your organisation would like to join, please email us.