6 tips for giving loneliness a break over the holidays
The Festive Season is upon us again, but for one in four Australians they’ll be grappling with the spectre of loneliness – and not quite as much Christmas cheer. (1)
Feelings of loneliness can be magnified at this time of year when reminders of happier Christmas Days are top of mind, particularly after the loss of a loved one over the course of the year or other changes, like divorce or a relationship split. Right now many of us are feeling the added impact of prolonged COVID-19 restrictions limiting us from physically celebrating the season again with family and friends living interstate or overseas.
Loneliness. Over the past decade it’s been described as a growing epidemic, and was of concern long before the COVID pandemic took hold. (2)
Researchers uncover sobering links to loneliness
Did you know researchers have found the negative health effects of loneliness are now known to be as bad for your health as obesity and smoking 15 cigarettes a day? (3)
It’s clinically established people experiencing loneliness are more susceptible to premature death. It can lead to poor mental health, increased substance abuse, decreased memory and learning; worsened general health, including malnutrition, reduced immunity, sleep disruption; in addition to diseases associated with an impaired cardiovascular system and physical inactivity like high blood pressure and heart disease. It’s not a great rap sheet – and some research has discovered loneliness can also be mentally contagious! (4)
A recent report Stronger Together: Loneliness and Social Connectedness in Australia (2021), uncovered our older people (aged 55+) in particular account for more than a third of the economic costs of loneliness through associated visits to GPs and hospitals as their physical inactivity took its toll. (5)
It’s concerning, however, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel – for all of us.
Six tips to get you started
Not surprisingly, because of this high economic cost, money’s been invested globally into analysing loneliness prevention, reduction and support for people across the lifespan who are experiencing this in our communities. In Australia, the estimated cost of loneliness is $2.7 billion each year, which works out at $1,565 for each person who becomes/remains lonely. (6)
Researchers in Australia, the US and UK have been busy studying tried and tested methods, coming up with four main intervention strategies. (6)
The most successful loneliness-busting strategies are:
• improving social skills
• enhancing social support
• increasing opportunities for social contact, and
• addressing maladaptive social cognition (i.e. changing your thinking)
Here are six suggestions on how to tackle loneliness just in time for the Festive Season:
1. Recognise the signs of loneliness – See something needs to change. It may not change overnight but aim to build connections over time for your wellbeing.
2. Connect with the younger generations – Learn from each other and share stories, it helps build resilience and deepens your social networks.
3. Expect change – Revisit your expectations about relationships. Accept change is normal and they can shift over time.
4. Consider a pet – Adopt a rescue dog or cat. Pets offer so many benefits, as well as companionship and a way to get walking and meet people (7)
5. Choose quality over quantity – Develop quality relationships and connections with people who share similar interests, values and attitudes – they’re much richer and rewarding.
6. Join in and join up – Look out for adverts or callouts in your local paper, in social media or on noticeboards from volunteer groups or clubs who could benefit from your skills and time.
Consider Advocare’s Community Visitor Scheme volunteering program that operates throughout the Perth metropolitan area. Volunteers are interviewed about their interests and skills and then matched up with an older person with similar interests who’s asked us for some company in their home or at the residential aged care facility where they live.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties. Our volunteers regularly share how socially connecting with someone who welcomes seeing them, and values their company, gives them such a lift. Find out more about our volunteering program at www.advocare.org.au or call 08 9479 7566.
Don’t let loneliness spoil the Festive Season for someone you know or care about. It’s a busy time for everyone but maybe aim to contact just one of your old friends or a distant family member during this time by email, phone or in person. It could make their Festive Season.
Perhaps you can start a connection with a future friend? Why not drop a simple greeting card into the mailbox of a little-known neighbour who you may have shared a ‘hello’ or smile within the last year? You’ll both feel the positive difference. Together we can help stop the spread of loneliness in 2022.
(1) “Australian Loneliness Report: A survey exploring the loneliness levels of Australians and the impact on their health and wellbeing.” APS (2018). Swinburne University (led by Dr Michelle Lim) and the Australian Psychological Society, with assistance from a market research agency, Pureprofile.
(2) “Serious loneliness spans the adult lifespan but there is a silver lining: Feeling alone linked to psychological and physical ills, but wisdom may be a protective factor,” Dilip Jeste, MD, in EurekaAlert, (18 December 2018). University of California – San Diego. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/674331
(3) “Pandemic Has Created Loneliness Epidemic,” Michelle R. Davis, AARP, (October 8, 2020),
(4) “The deadly truth about loneliness,” Dr Michelle H Lim, 29 August 2018,
(5) “Stronger Together: Loneliness and social connectedness in Australia,” (November 2021).
Duncan A, Kiely D, Mavisakalyan A, Peters A, Seymour R, Twomey C and Vu L (2021), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Focus on the States Series, #8.
(6) “A Meta-Analysis of Interventions to Reduce Loneliness,” Christopher M. Masi, Hsi-Yuan Chen, Louise C. Hawkley John T. Cacioppo (August 17, 2010).
(7) “Loneliness: Causes and Health Consequences,” Kendra Cherry (Updated 1 September, 2021) https://www.verywellmind.com/loneliness-causes-effects-and-treatments-2795749#tips-to-prevent-and-overcome-loneliness