Are our social connections the key to longer life?

Social connection is a basic human need. It’s in our DNA, along with our need for food, water, and shelter.

When this need isn’t met, our physical and mental health can suffer.

Research shows the health risks of loneliness are as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, and even greater than those associated with obesity.

Loneliness can have devastating impacts on our emotional wellbeing, potentially leading to anxiety, depression, and suicide. It can also significantly increase the risk of developing serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and dementia.

The quality of our relationships often directly impacts our quality of life. And many of us are currently lacking the strong social connections and sense of community we inherently desire.

We’re experiencing a loneliness epidemic.

In October 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared loneliness a “global health priority”.

This came with the announcement of a new three-year Commission on Social Connection to address loneliness as a pressing health threat and promote social connection.

In Relationships Australia's 2022 Relationships Indicators survey, one in five participants disclosed they often feel lonely. Our young people (18-24 years) reported the highest prevalence of loneliness across all cohorts, with almost half (45.9%) of participants disclosing they feel emotionally lonely.

While research shows Australians are experiencing increased levels of loneliness, nearly half of us struggle to seek support to help manage our relationships.

Relationships Australia Queensland helps individuals, couples, and families develop the skills to build and maintain healthy, respectful relationships and combat loneliness.

Relationships Australia created the Neighbours Every Day campaign specifically to address loneliness and help create and share belonging across Australia.

As the leading social connection campaign in the country, it aims to raise awareness of the importance of social inclusion and connection in our communities, particularly among vulnerable members of society.

Neighbour Day is the campaign’s annual day of action, encouraging Australians to host or attend events that increase social connection in their neighbourhood and local areas.

Individuals and businesses can get involved in celebrating Neighbour Day to help address loneliness and foster healthy connections in their communities.

Our social connections are a key protective factor against many physical and mental health conditions. They help create a sense of belonging and purpose, increase our resilience through challenging times, and improve our overall life satisfaction.

We can all contribute to increasing social connection and improving the wellbeing of our communities and society.

If you’re struggling with loneliness or need some extra support in your relationships, talking to a professional counsellor can help. You can learn more about our counselling services here, or call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment.

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