This time of year is usually when families and friends get together to celebrate but Australians are feeling more lonely coming into the festive season, new data from the Australian Red Cross has found.
According to the annual survey of 1000 people, 33 percent of people feel lonely in the lead-up, and during, the festive season, a 4 percent increase from 2020.
It was also revealed that people in the younger age bracket, 18—29, felt more alone compared to the total population, while significantly more women surveyed (40 percent) are more lonely than men (26 percent).
“After a tumultuous year of snap lockdowns and significant restrictions across Australia, it’s not surprising that people are feeling they have lost connections, are experiencing loneliness and are a little hesitant about the festive season,” said Red Cross Director of Volunteering Penny Harrison.
“It’s also apparent that younger people are worried about possible border closures keeping them from family and friends.”
The survey also showed people aged 18-39 were more concerned about border closures than any other age group (36 percent).
Of those who could be impacted by border closures or travel restrictions, near two-thirds were worried vulnerable friends and family would be lonely if travel restrictions remain in place.
Meanwhile, over half surveyed agreed COVID-19 had changed their relationships and the way they see the world.
People appear to be making an effort though, with 74 per cent of respondents saying they had plans for Christmas Day, up 14 percent from last year.
However, one in five people over 70, retirees and those living alone, had no plans.
“While the survey offers a sobering look at how Australians are feeling heading into what will be their second COVID festive period, it was heart-warming that three-quarters of people surveyed believe we need to look after more vulnerable people at this time of year,” Harrison noted.
As the country faces another summer season that could bring natural disasters, economic challenges and the social isolation brought about by COVID-19 restrictions, Red Cross has launched the ‘Season of Belonging’ campaign, calling on Australians to reach out to each other to prevent loneliness this festive season.
“Pick up the phone and reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to this year or check in on a neighbour who lives alone,” Harrison said.
“Even a simple phone call or an invitation to Christmas dinner can make the world of difference to someone who is isolated.”
A 2015 research has found that loneliness is twice as likely to cause early mortality as obesity, and that isolation has the same impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
One in four Australians, or 5.6 million people, are lonely almost all of the time or on a regular basis, Red Cross had revealed.
Red Cross noted that their volunteers conduct social support calls throughout the year but expect to call around 2,700 people on Christmas Day.