Research has suggested that humans are neurologically wired to connect, and as a species we have relied on our tribe to survive and thrive. We have an innate need to belong, and if this need is not met it can cause us to feel lonely and impact negatively on our mental health and overall well-being.

Loneliness is described as a negative feeling of sadness or distress that arises when we are experiencing social isolation due to our social needs are not being met.

In 2018, the Australian Psychological Society collaborated with Swinburne University on a study of loneliness in Australia, to shine a light on the wellbeing of Australians and their experience of social isolation.

Some of the main findings from the report suggested that:

  • 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely.
  • Many Australians – especially younger Australians – report anxiety about socialising.
  • Thirty per cent don’t feel part of a group of friends.
  • Lonely Australians have worse physical and mental health, and are more likely to be depressed.

Since this report, we have, and are continuing to experience the impact of COVID-19 on social connection. Research conducted by Swinburne University indicated that 1 in 2 Australians report feeling lonelier since the pandemic started3.

So why might people feel lonely?

There are many different reasons why some might feel lonely. As with many things in psychology it is also likely a combination of various factors that impact on how feel. Factors that may impact on feeling lonely may include:

  • Lack of or limited social contact
  • Lack of orfewer meaningful relationships
  • Anxiety/Depression
    • Avoiding social situations
    • Unhelpful thoughts/interpretation about social interactions
  • Change in life circumstances
    • Moved location
    • Living arrangement
    • Loss of loved one
    • Job or work role

It is also important to be aware that feeling lonely does not always depend on how much social contact you have, instead, it can often be about how connected you feel to people in your life.

“connection is why we’re here: it was give purpose and meaning to our lives” Brene Brown

Be able to connect with others often requires us to be vulnerable and brave. This is not always easy, and some people really struggle being vulnerable and open with others. If you or someone you know is feeling lonely, try taking a risk and open up to someone, this may be a loved one, friend, or even a psychologist.

If you are wanting to open up to someone about feeling lonely or other challenges in your life, we at Prosper Health Collective can support you.

 

References

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