More Australians are feeling lonelier now than before the COVID-19 pandemic, new research has found.
Telstra’s Talking Loneliness report released on Friday found 27 percent of people experienced loneliness for the first time during the pandemic, while almost half of Australians still feel lonely because of COVID-19 lockdowns.
“The pandemic has really disrupted our social routine and behaviour,” clinical psychologist Michelle Lim told AAP.
“I think we’re going to be experiencing huge disruptions to maintaining relationships for a very long time.”
Almost two-thirds of Australians regularly feel isolated from others, the report found, while one in four say they don’t have people they can regularly talk to or turn to.
More than 40 per cent of people reported being worried they would be judged if they told people they were feeling lonely.
Loneliness is a normal feeling, but that doesn’t mean people should suffer in silence, Lim said.
“We have robust global data that says loneliness actually leads to things like poorer heart health, type two diabetes and poor mental health,” she said.
“But almost half of Australians now report feeling lonely, and perhaps they might feel lonely because nobody’s talking about it.
“It’s really important that loneliness is not seen as a stigmatised word. It’s like how we see being hungry or thirsty.
“Feeling lonely means that we need to reach out, reconnect and take every opportunity to build a meaningful social connection so we can thrive and flourish as humans.”
People experiencing loneliness could start small by sending a text message to an old friend.
“Don’t worry if you don’t hear back,” Lim said. “That’s what stops a lot of people.”
“There are a lot of people who enjoy someone reconnecting, even if it’s just to say hi and I’m thinking about you.
“You don’t have to commit to catching up. It doesn’t need to be this intense effort and commitment.”