THE risk of loneliness increases for those in the community raising children, either as a single parent or as part of a couple, a new study from The Australia Institute has found.
All The Lonely People: Loneliness in Australia 2001-09 reveals that three-in-10 Australians experienced loneliness in that period and that the number of people moving in and out of loneliness is increasing.
The institute's director of research and report author David Baker said more Australians were experiencing loneliness now than in the early 2000s.
"Our study found that loneliness is higher among men (36%) than women (29%)," Mr Baker said.
"Surprisingly, couples with children were lonelier than couples without children.
"The lifestyle change that occurs for many new parents appears to loosen the connections they have with their pre-existing social networks.
"Although household type was found to be a key determinant of loneliness, there was no real difference between the levels of loneliness recorded in urban, regional or rural areas. Those earning higher incomes were no more or less lonely."
The study also examined the role of social media, namely Facebook, in the lives of those who identified as lonely.
Lonely users reported having fewer Facebook friends and were less likely to count them as real friends. However, they were more likely to say Facebook helped them connect with family and existing friends.
"This contrasts with non-lonely users who use Facebook as a means to further expand their existing network of social support by finding new online friends," Mr Baker said.
"Given the rapid increase in the use of social media and the government's policy focus on social inclusion, there is a risk that social networking sites may be over-promoted, especially to younger people."
The institute's paper also highlighted risk factors for experiencing loneliness and discusses the policy implications of this for the Federal Government.
The paper can be downloaded from www.tai.org.au, under Publications.
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