Young Australians are experiencing alarming levels of loneliness and social isolation putting them at risk of social anxiety and depression, according to a research report from health promotion foundation VicHealth and Swinburne University of Technology.
The study, incorporating 1,500 young Victorians aged between 12-25, showed more than half of young people felt lonely sometimes or always and over a quarter of young Victorians were lonely three or more times a week.
Almost a third of young Victorians were at risk of social isolation and around 47% of young people reported higher risk of depression and social anxiety.
Alarmingly, the report indicated that loneliness is having a significant impact on young people’s mental health.
“It’s concerning that a significant number of young people feel like they have no one to turn to. Having a supportive network of friends and family around us can help improve mental wellbeing,” said VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio
“This research shows we need to be doing more to support young people to make friends and develop social connections to get them through tough times.”
Top tips to help young people combat loneliness:
- Act not react. Understand that feeling lonely is normal and it is a signal for you to do something different in your current social relationships.
- Signal to others your willingness to connect. Simple acts such as smiling and open body language helps others know you are willing to interact.
- A confidant can help alleviate loneliness, this could be a professional such as a school counsellor or a teacher.
- Getting more friends may help some but for others it could be easier to focus on improving the quality of a few relationships.
- Find ‘your people’. Join a sports team, choir, art class or volunteer – spending time with like-minded people with common interests is one way to make friends.
- Take the time. Repeated social interactions with others builds trust.
- Set realistic expectations. Friendships and relationships are dynamic. Your connection with a person wavers over time so don’t get down on yourself if you’re not seeing certain friends all the time.
- Manage social fears. Your fear of being judged by others may stop you from interacting with people. Seek help to gain more confidence around social interactions to make this easier.
- Manage feeling down. If you think you feel more sad and depressed about your social situation than you should be, speak to someone you trust or a health professional.
The Young Australian Loneliness Survey is available at https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/loneliness-survey