Friends and family good for health: study

Australia

Helping lonely Australians build friendships could be good for their health, a new study has found.

The news comes as a survey of more than 1600 Australians found loneliness has strong links to poorer quality of life and physical wellbeing.

The Australian Loneliness Report, released on Friday in time for Psychology Week, found people with higher loneliness levels reported more physical health symptoms including sleeping difficulties, headaches, stomach complaints, nausea, colds and infections.

The research, by the Australian Psychology Society and Swinburne University, also shows nearly 55 per cent of the population feel they lack companionship at least sometimes, with the number highest in young adults (62 per cent) compared to seniors (46 per cent).

Swinburne’s Michelle Lim said chronic loneliness was on the rise in Australia and the findings highlighted the importance of establishing meaningful relationships.

“If you don’t know where to start when it comes to making new friends, focus on the relationships you already have,” Dr Lim said.

“Quality is more important than quantity. Strengthening existing relationships and building intimacy is important.”

Society president Ros Knight said everyone benefited from connecting with others.

“Whether it’s family, friends, neighbours, people we work with, or the strangers we meet, social connections make our lives richer. They are vital for good health,” she said.

Britain recently appointed a minister for loneliness to tackle the isolation felt by more than one in 10 people in the UK.

Victorian MP Fiona Patten believes the state should follow in the footsteps of Britain and introduce a minister of loneliness to improve the health and lives of isolated community members.

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