Should Australia follow the UK and establish a loneliness strategy?
After appointing the world’s first Minister for Loneliness earlier this year, the UK Government has launched its first strategy to combat loneliness.
In Britain, it’s thought some 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative for more than a month. Two-fifths says the television is their main source of company, while more than half of those aged over 75 describe themselves as chronically lonely.
To counter the loneliness epidemic, British doctors will soon be able to engage in “ social prescribing.” This will involve sending isolated patients to cooking classes or walking groups, in a bid to facilitate companionship and interaction.
Michelle Lim, Scientific Chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness, says the debilitating phenomenon is a big issue in Australia, especially as the ageing population makes its presence known.
“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t want to say they’re lonely,” explains Michelle.
“It’s the stigmatisation and connotation that you’re fragile and vulnerable.”
“But with public education and public health campaigns we can actually reduce this stigma and get to a place where we see being lonely is just normal. It’s part of our DNA.”
When it comes to overcoming loneliness, incrementally challenging yourself to consolidate your connections is key.
“It’s important to make the effort. Don’t think about making a new friend. Think about the people you already interact with. Think about building intimacy with that one person and build your confidence from there.”
“It’s about little step approaches where you feel comfortable but always pushing that boundary.”
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