Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Join us as we shine a light on isolation in New Zealand and explore ways to overcome it.
We are launching our 2020 OOBY Loneliness Campaign to shine a light on isolation in New Zealand and explore ways to overcome it. Here's why it is such an important issue for us.
According to New Zealand's recent offical loneliness survey, more than 650,000 Kiwis have felt lonely within the past four weeks. Close to a quarter of a million (243,000) of New Zealanders feel lonely most or all of the time.
It is a silent epidemic in many ways but one that is attracting increasing attention. Experts worldwide are treating it as a serious threat, ranking it right up there with smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity in terms of its effects on your health.
Feeling lonely can affect us mentally and physically. Numerous studies have shown that loneliness can be linked to early death, plus an increase in the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, depression, mental decline and Alzheimer’s.
Covid-19 and the lockdown and social distancing that came with it has only exacerbated the situation - though it has also drawn attention to it, which has to be a positive thing. Radio New Zealand, The Spinoff and Psychology Today have all run pieces examining loneliness and what we can do about it over the past month or so.
The elderly are often associated with loneliness. Age Concern has previously told the Herald on Sunday that nearly one in three older New Zealanders spend their days alone. But that doesn't tell the full story. A quick glance at the figures shows that loneliness is actually higher amongst the 15-24 age group. The bulk of lonely Kiwis are under 65 years of age.
WHY DO KIWIS FEEL SO LONELY?
Social media often gets the blame for feelings of disconnection and loneliness and there is definitely evidence that suggests it can be a contributing factor. Research has associated heavy social media use with increased loneliness. This may be because online spaces are often oriented to performance, status, exaggerating favourable qualities (such as by posting only “happy” content and likes), and frowning on expressions of loneliness.
Rural living can also be responsible and rural isolation is something that New Zealanders are likely to be susceptible to - given how spread out our population is. Of course, you can feel lonely in the middle of a bustling city! But rural isolation can be exceptionally difficult. You might go for days without seeing your neighbours or feel cut off due to slow rural broadband speeds or poor transport links. Or you might simply live in an area that has no community hub or where natural centres for socialising - such as churches, community halls or pubs have closed down.
Feelings of loneliness are often elevated in winter, which is why we have launched our campaign now. For some people who struggle with feelings of loneliness day-to-day and experience social isolation daily, gnarly winter weather can be another reminder of their solitude and disconnection from others and present a further obstacle to leaving the home, both mentally and physically.
From bereavement and retirement to having a baby and getting divorced, there are so many reasons behind loneliness, but there are ways in which we can all help.
HOW WE WANT TO HELP
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be looking into loneliness at every level. To kick things off, we're running an OOBY loneliness poll so we can get to know your situation better - you can take the poll below. We'll also be covering topics such as:
Is social prescribing by GPs the answer?
The best holiday locations for people travelling alone
Loneliness and farming in New Zealand
Do we need to create more social spaces in New Zealand?
Clubs and groups that are bringing their communities back together
Organisations that can help people feeling lonely
Top tips for getting connected and making friends
TAKE THE LONELINESS POLL
WHERE YOU CAN GO FOR HELP IF YOU'RE LONELY
Age Concern New Zealand combats loneliness among older people through its Befriending Service. You can become a volunteer befriender at any age - more info.
Loneliness New Zealand is a charitable trust that is dedicated to conquering loneliness in New Zealand. The website has a number of resources that people struggling with loneliness can access. They can also offer professional support, including counselling, mentoring and coaching - more info.
CommunityNet Aotearoa is an online hub where you can find and share resources designed to strengthen community organisations - more info.
New Zealand Immigration has a really useful page on their website for new arrivals with tips on building friendships and getting involved in the community - more info.