Loneliness is stressful on both the mind and body. It increases the odds of an earlier death by 26%
— similar to the odds when living alone. A person who perceives themselves as having minimised access to relationships also finds physical and mental tasks more difficult
. These individuals can’t rely on group safety or share the load
of life’s challenges, and this compromises their ability to regulate stress. It is no wonder that loneliness is associated with multiple physical health disorders
, from poorer cardiovascular health
to increased blood pressure
to sleep issues
One in four Australians report problematic levels of loneliness, as revealed in research conducted by my team at Swinburne University in conjunction with the the Australian Psychological Society. The Australia Loneliness Report
shows that loneliness affects all genders and ages, although those over 65 report less loneliness than all other age groups.
The research highlights the impact of loneliness on Australians’ mental health. Lonely Australians, when compared with their less lonely counterparts, report higher social anxiety and depression, poorer psychological health, lower quality of life, and fewer meaningful relationships and social interactions. Loneliness increases a person’s odds of future depression by 15% and social anxiety symptoms by 13%. This fits with previous research, including a study
of more than 1,000 Americans which found lonelier people reported more severe social anxiety, depression and paranoia when followed up after three months.