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Loneliness is on the rise among young Australians, with more than one in two young people saying they lack companionship, new research shows.

Findings from the 2020 headspace National Youth Mental Health Survey revealed that 54% of young people feel a sense of loneliness, while 47% feel left out and isolated.

Young women consistently reported higher rates of loneliness than young men did across every age group; expect 22-25 year olds. Reports of isolation among young women aged 12-14 rose from 27% in 2018 to 40% in 2020.

The survey, which involved 1,035 young people from across Australia, highlights a worrying increase in the number of youth struggling to find connections.

Jason Trethowan, headspace CEO, said the findings confirm that young people are living through a challenging time.

“Even with increases in online activity, young people report they lack companionship, feel left out and are missing out on experiences that define their youth – like meeting new people and travelling,” he said.

“We know there’s a vicious cycle where feeling isolated can impact mental health, which in turn leads to further social withdrawal and poorer mental health.”

The National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, headspace is encouraging young people to understand how loneliness might affect them and to reach out to friends and family to let them know what they are going through. They are also calling on friends and families to check in with young people and recognise when additional support may be needed.

Rupert Saunders, headspace’s National Clinical Advisor, said it was important young people explore different opportunities to forge connections.

“We’re not only talking about sharing the company of other people,” he explained.

“It’s also about feeling understood and supported, which are just as important for mental wellbeing.

“This can be more challenging as we go into the colder months and face the possibility of ongoing COVID restrictions. Maintaining connection while adjusting to our new normal should be a top priority for all young people.”

Mr Saunders listed finding ways to keep a daily routine with study and work, connecting with family and friends and reaching out for additional help, as some small steps that can make a big difference.

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