Project to support young people experiencing loneliness

Monday, 11 March, 2024

Project to support young people experiencing loneliness

A new research project, which aims to form a national picture on how younger Australians experience loneliness during life transitions, will be led by The ALIVE National Centre for Mental Health Research Translation with the help of three years of funding from the Medibank Better Health Foundation.

Australians aged 18–25 are experiencing loneliness at very high rates, with younger adults, young men and those living alone or alone with children at particularly high risk — and research indicates that loneliness is associated with existing and persistent mental ill health. Life transitions — such as finishing high school, leaving home or becoming a parent — can be particularly stressful periods and can also increase experiences of loneliness.

“We know that life transitions can be very tough, and sometimes very lonely, for young people,” said Professor Victoria Palmer, Co-Director of ALIVE National.

“So this suggests that these periods of transition could be an optimal time to reduce or prevent the potential negative mental and physical health outcomes associated with loneliness.”

The research project, dubbed ‘A-Part of the Crowd’, will invite young people from diverse backgrounds to share their personal experiences of loneliness during life transitions and then create an online community space for the public to access. The research will then be used to co-design a social care model aimed at helping young Australians experiencing loneliness.

“We don’t know enough about the difficulties of isolation and loneliness for young adult communities, and so we don’t have systems in place to help them in the ways that they need,” Palmer said.

“Developing a picture of how loneliness is experienced during these critical life stages for people from diverse backgrounds, regions and ages is essential if we want to co-design of a responsive model to provide care that can be implemented in primary care and community settings.”

Dr Jessica Choong, from the Medibank Better Health Foundation, said Medibank’s support of the project is part of a 10-year commitment to help address loneliness in Australia.

“Loneliness is prevalent in our community right now, and is particularly affecting young adults going through significant life changes,” Choong said. “While it’s normal to feel lonely, chronic loneliness is linked to poor physical and mental health and can lead to long-term health implications. The more we can do to understand the experience of loneliness, the better we can be at helping address it.”

The project team expects to be able to explore its co-designed model of care within an implementation study design in 2025.

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