• Denise Lazenby

The loneliness epidemic has hit Australia

I guess everyone has experienced loneliness at times. For some it’s a passing feeling for others it can become a bone crunching sadness which leads to depression, social isolation or anxiety.

According to a huge body of research, feeling lonely is not unusual. Even with all the technology at our finger tips, more women are saying they feel less connected, more isolated and sadder… and some recent reports reveal a few clues as to why this trend is on the rise.

Firstly, we are living longer and many of us live alone. A survey of people undertaken by Lifeline in 2016 reported that a staggering 82.5 per cent of Australians felt lonely… and that’s not good for our mental or physical health. It may seem crazy, but a 2010 Harvard study concluded loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

It seems we have less friends and we find it harder to make new friends. The average Aussie has only 4 close friends, a significant drop from a few years ago when we averaged between 6 and 7 friends. In Australia, one in three women will experience anxiety, which can make it even harder to make friends and be social. Even the WHO go as far as to say “when it comes to illness such as anxiety and depression, women predominate".

When I decided to leave a busy job in the Public Service, the one thing I didn’t factor into the equation was just how isolating it can be living alone and working from home. I’ve always been a person who was happy in their own company so the thought didn’t cross my mind. Then towards the end of 2017 things started to change. A long-term relationship ended and within a few months I lost a much-loved friend to suicide.

Of course, when these type of life events happen, it’s natural to feel unhappy and upset, but the tell-tale signs were there. Getting up and going out became a huge effort… and some days it was a mountain too high to climb. Then I managed to fall over and sprain my ankle, injure my knee and break my wrist, so even less reason to get up.

While I’m recovering, in many ways my experience was the genesis for starting Womenspace. Talking about it made me realise there were a lot of people out there struggling with isolation and other disorders. Many had retired and wanted the company, some were new to the area or just wanted to expand their group of friends. Whatever the reason, Womenspace IS a circle of friendship, we are there to support each other when needed, but also to socialise and enjoy each other’s company.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a group event or a one on one catch up, the connection is what matters and personally, I have to say being part of a group of interesting and dynamic women has made the world of difference.

Christmas can be a lonely time, especially if you live alone or don’t have family nearby. So, if you need a chat, feel like a walk or just want to watch the sun go down, please get in touch. A friend once said to me you should use your friends when you’re feeling down. After all, you would be there for them – so please let them be there for you” Wise words from a wise woman.

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