Modern technology has fundamentally altered the way we interact with each other, giving us the ability to communicate with friends and loved ones instantly, anywhere in the world. Yet, despite our increasing digital connectedness, 8 out of 10 Australians believe that loneliness is on the rise and more people than ever are living, working and dying alone.
Recent studies reveal that 10 percent of Australian adults identify as feeling chronically lonely, with a further 17 per cent feeling socially isolated most of the time. Experts predict that loneliness, if not adequately addressed, will reach epidemic proportions across the Western world by 2030.
As the recent appointment of Britain’s first Minister for Loneliness demonstrates, loneliness has become a public health crisis. Recent studies support this: lack of social connection has been found to be as bad for one’s health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and poses a greater risk of premature death than obesity. Loneliness can quite literally kill you.
Dr Michelle Lim is a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Swinburne University and leads the Social Connectedness Laboratory. Widely recognised as Australia’s foremost expert on the topic of loneliness, Dr Lim was recently appointed chair of the scientific advisory committee for the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness, which guides Australian not-for-profit organisations and government agencies to deliver evidence-based community messaging and interventions in loneliness.
Learn more about the RSA’s work on social isolation: www.thersa.org