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Big jump in people feeling alone this Christmas

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Big jump in people feeling alone this Christmas

9 December 2019

New research commissioned by Australian Red Cross has found a 65 percent increase in the number of people who feel low levels of connection this festive season.

The survey of 1220 people around Australia in November looked at peoples’ feelings of connection during the festive season of December to January, and compared it with a similar survey at the same time last year.

Red Cross Director Australian Programs, Noel Clement said nearly half of us (43%) are feeling mid to low levels of connections with others – again a big increase on the previous year (26%).

“As well as significantly more people feeling disconnected to others, many more people said they were unlikely to have plans this Christmas Day,” Mr Clement said.

“Some 18% more people – a total of 34% – said they were unsure whether they were likely to have plans for December 25 compared to last year.

“When looking for the reasons for this, we can see a picture of people either living away from loved ones, or feeling somehow excluded from others.

“Nearly two out of five people (37%) recalled feeling isolated or lonely last festive season, with the main reason being away from family or friends (47%), feeling out of place with people around them (41%) and feeling like they don’t get invited out as much as others (26%).

Connecting the dots

“Red Cross is working to build more inclusive, connected communities, particularly focusing on those experiencing vulnerability and at risk of being overlooked. We are calling on all Australians to reach out today and include others in your circle and in your thinking.

“We know that people crave connections, with 90% of people saying quality social connections are important in influencing their overall wellbeing. Now it’s a matter of us all trying a little harder to join the dots. By reaching out, making contact with someone you haven’t heard from for a while, inviting one more person to the Christmas table , being kinder on social media, increasing your compliments, listening a little harder, speaking to your neighbour – you make can make a real difference.

Fostering hope

Mr Clement said there are plenty of benefits in building connections.

“Our volunteers tell us time and time again how much they themselves gain from giving back. Our experience in disasters shows that a connected community makes us stronger, more resilient, and more likely to bounce back from adversity.

“Another reason for hope is that the sentiment towards this time of year is already positive. Some 55% of people agree that during the festive season they feel more grateful for what they have while 27% feel anxious about the coming festive season.

“When we asked people which changes they would make during 2020 some 79% said they’d be likely to spend more time with family and friends, and increase their connection with others. They also said they’d be likely to reduce their carbon footprint (22%) do more for their community (18%) and join a community group (17%).

“Further, when we asked what their top five things they felt hopeful for in 2020 they nominated improved financial situation, stronger or better relationships, increased happiness from things that give them pleasure (life balance, hobbies, travel etc) and good health.

“Australians are incredibly generous, and another thing people can do is support our everyday work and make this a season of belonging for everyone by donating at https://www.redcross.org.au/belonging  It’s not too late to buy a gift card, representing the work of Red Cross teams on the ground at gifts.redcross.org.au

The survey

The survey was commissioned by Australian Red Cross and conducted by OmniPoll in November 2019  amongst a sample of 1220 people aged 18 and over in all States and Territories. Cities and regions. All results reported at a confidence level of 95% and margin of error below 3%.

Other key findings

  • When asked to rate how connected they felt on a score of 0 (low level of disconnection) to 10 (highly connected) the average score was 6.4, compared to 7.4 in 2018
  • The proportion of those in the mid to low levels of connection (0-6) rose by 65%
  • 12% felt very disconnected (0-2) compared to 5% in 2018
  • Only 24% felt very connected, compared to 34% in 2018
  • 53% of people said they were likely to have plans on Christmas day, 34% were unsure and 13% said no. This represented an 18% increase in the number of people who were unsure whether they’d have plans for December 25 compared to 2018.
  • When looking back on last December 25 2018, nearly two out of five people (37%) recalled feeling isolated or lonely last festive season, an increase of 2% over the previous year.
  • Those who felt more lonely or isolated last year were aged 18 to 24 (50%) which is aligned with those studying (48%) and those with an income below $50,000 (44%).
  • More than half of people felt they have fewer social connections than five or 10 years ago (53%) and 44% of people felt they have fewer connections than those around them. There was no major change in this over 2018.
  • Only 7% of people felt that quality social connections were not important in influencing overall wellbeing, with a staggering 90% saying they were important – most of them (52%) saying they were very important or extremely important.