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Phillips suggested that apathy plays a big part. Becher and Singer expressed similar thoughts. This creates profound apathy. Singer also suggested that apathy plays a part in social isolation. Why is it difficult? We see this when someone finally moves into assisted living or a retirement community.

All the Lonely People

Becher, Phillips, and Singer all cited apathy as a clinical issue. Apathy is associated with the loss of motivation or initiative and the loss of pleasure and display of emotions. It can be seen with depression but is different from depression and is treated differently than depression. The clinicians each noted that their specific local geography and transportation infrastructure significantly impacted their patients.

Loneliness Research

Becher describes the West Virginian landscape in her practice area. Our geography causes barriers that contribute to the feelings of isolation and loneliness for some of my patients. Singer talked about another barrier in Maine that contributes to isolation as well as many other health conditions: older adults without local family members.

In both cases we now have older adults who are not living near their children or their siblings and that creates isolation. The other segment are those that moved here when they were still healthy. They retired to Maine because Maine is a great place to retire. They aged in place here away from their family. For Phillips in Minnesota, transportation, geography, and weather — specifically the 4 to 6 months of winter — also contribute to social isolation and loneliness.

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Phillips also said for some of her older adult clients, it might even be a very short distance that contributes to isolation. That can keep them inside for weeks. Hearing about these issues and seeing how transportation barriers dramatically impact their mental health, it is understandable how social isolation and loneliness can occur. It should be recognized that not having internet services prevents people from communicating the way the rest of modern society is communicating. Again, that can create a sense of isolation. Lenard Kaye. Image credit: Senate Committee on Aging.

Social isolation and loneliness - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

He is passionate about the issues around rural social isolation and loneliness, considering them a significant public health problem. He talked about the implications of forced social disengagement when one spouse is hospitalized or requires nursing home placement while the other spouse remains at home without transportation to even be able to visit. Actively networking with healthcare systems, professional societies, philanthropy groups, and other interested individuals, Kaye is clear about a three-point path to address social isolation and loneliness:.

We need to discover the natural social support networks that exist in every community and work to keep those strong. A self-described urban-to-rural migrant who lives in rural New York, he is very familiar with the rural community network that depends on churches, schools, and healthcare organizations. Second, the methodology of using an online survey may mean that those who participated had access to the internet, and therefore may be better connected to services. A pen-and-paper survey may capture less well-connected individuals and influence loneliness scores.


These findings however are consistent with previous APS Psychology Week surveys, including the survey which found that older Australians reported significantly higher levels of wellbeing and lower levels of loneliness and negative emotions than the rest of the population APS, Australians reporting higher levels of loneliness i. The impact on mental health is substantial, as shown by Figure 2.

The complexity of loneliness

Loneliness increases the chance of being depressed or anxious about social interactions, and experiencing depression and social interaction anxiety also increases the chance of being lonely. The impact of loneliness on poorer physical health outcomes was demonstrated via poorer sleep, more headache symptoms, increased stomach complaints and more frequent respiratory infections.

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  • This is also consistent with previous research Holt-Lunstad, , and highlights the widespread effect of loneliness on physical health. These experiences of physical and mental ill health may cause an individual to withdraw from social interactions, making it more difficult for them to overcome loneliness. There was a significant relationship between loneliness and all the measures assessed by the online survey see Figure 3.

    These relationships further emphasise the strong impact of loneliness on mental, physical, and social wellbeing. However, they also provide insight into protective factors and highlight priorities for treatment. For example, loneliness interventions could assist individuals to experience more positive emotions and greater self-worth, engage in pleasurable and engaging activities and assist with challenging unhelpful thoughts and beliefs e.

    This national survey highlights the urgent need for policy and interventions that target loneliness. Australian Government funding has so far targeted older adults, but our survey has highlighted the need to address loneliness across the adult lifespan. Psychologists need to ensure that they identify loneliness and assess for co-occurring social anxiety which may contribute to loneliness severity.


    Interventions need to be refined, modified, and delivered based on the complexity of loneliness. The full report of the survey is available from the Psychology Week campaign website: psychweek. The APS aims to ensure that information published in InPsych is current and accurate at the time of publication. Changes after publication may affect the accuracy of this information. Readers are responsible for ascertaining the currency and completeness of information they rely on, which is particularly important for government initiatives, legislation or best-practice principles which are open to amendment.

    Search for:. InPsych Vol This is to preserve editing functionality. This is expected behaviour when in the CMS and happens because the depth of the nav exceeds 4 levels. How lonely are Australians?