The most comprehensive report on loneliness in Australia shows that a quarter of adults are lonely for three or more days of the week. The Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University study, also found that one in two (50.5 per cent) of Australians is lonely for at least one day a week – an issue which is amplified during the festive season when everyone is supposed to be feeling joyful.
Gold Coast University Hospital Foundation CEO Kim Sutton, who assists people in hospital overcome, distress and medical hardship, says the holidays are often the most difficult time of the year, particularly for those in the community too unwell to leave hospital.
“Christmas is when families get together and celebrate life and the year’s achievements. It’s the saddest thing for people to be injured, or to lose family members, over the festive period.”
“We’re also so culturally-conditioned to assume that holidays should be spent surrounded by people and activity. The reality is lots of people are unable to get out and about and share special events with others.”
“It’s different if there is an accident or illness, and in December we see spikes in both,” says Ms Sutton who is based in one of the biggest emergency departments in the country.
“A big focus on what we do is keep families together by providing emergency accommodation when a loved one is in hospital.”
For those finding themselves alone these holidays, Ms Sutton shares five ways to lift your spirits:
- Take the chance to complete those things you’ve always wanted to do: Make a list of all the things you wanted to do, but never had a chance – tick off your bucket list. At least plan your time in advance so you don’t wake up at a loss on Christmas morning with no-where to go and nothing to do.
- Random acts of kindness: A growing mountain of research shows that one of the best ways of lifting your spirits is giving to others – so think about volunteering your time or donating to a worthwhile cause. You will feel good and brighten other people’s holidays in turn.
- Head to a busy social place and chat: I’ve travelled the world solo many times and often found myself facing a day, or a meal alone. To overcome this, try heading to a relaxed busy place such as the beach front or a café and chatting with others.
- Step out of your comfort zone: Those that don’t have any plans for the holidays might consider opening their house to a friend or neighbour who may also want company this Christmas – but doesn’t know where to find it.
- Know that time will heal: If you are alone and full of grief, it’s going to be a hard time and I feel for you. Mourning the loss of someone, or something, is made harder by the social importance placed on certain periods and assumptions – particularly at this time of year. Reach out and let people know how you feel.
The top reasons for feeling lonely, according to a Red Cross survey, are death of a loved one (34 per cent); moving from friends and family (31 per cent); isolation at school or work (22 per cent); divorce or separation (21 per cent); losing a job (17 per cent).
The Gold Coast Hospital Foundation is currently holding its Christmas Appeal with all money raised going towards Emergency Accommodation Services, which helps hundreds of family members every year.
“By providing accommodation to families, while a loved one is in hospital, it helps ease an already difficult situation,” said Ms Sutton.
About Gold Coast Hospital Foundation
Not for profit Gold Coast Hospital Foundation raises funds to help deliver better health outcomes to patients and families receiving care at Gold Coast University Hospital, Robina Hospital and more than 40 health and medical facilities across the Gold Coast.
The initiatives and projects delivered by the Foundation each year helps more than 95,000 locals overcome distress and medical hardship, through vital support services.