SYDNEY, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- One in four Australians report being lonely, with significant impacts on physical and mental health, according to latest research.
The loneliness is strongly linked to poorer quality of life, lower psychological wellbeing and greater social discomfort, major survey findings by the Australian Psychological Society professional association and Swinburne University of Technology released late Thursday showed.
Nearly 30 percent of Australians do not feel part of a group of friends, while one in four do not feel they have a lot in common with people around them, the society said in a statement.
The findings, derived from a survey of more than 1,600 Australians and touted as the most comprehensive of its kind, also showed that nearly 55 percent of the population experienced a lack of companionship "at least sometimes", with the number highest in young adults (62 percent) compared to seniors (46 percent).
People with higher loneliness levels experienced more physical health symptoms, including sleeping difficulties, headaches, stomach complaints, nausea, colds and infections, according to the society. They also reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, social difficulties and loss of confidence, it said.
"More often than not, people are surrounded by friends. But if these friendships do not meet a person's needs, such as feeling supported or connected, then they will still feel lonely even if they have many friends," said the university's Dr Michelle Lim.
"Strengthening existing relationships and building intimacy is important," she added.
"Whether it's family, friends, neighbors, people we work with, or the strangers we meet, social connections make our lives richer. They are vital for good health," said the society's president Ros Knight.
There were strategies that individuals could undertake but governments also need to look at the impacts of loneliness and build interventions into health policy, she said.
"These findings are important as they demonstrate that loneliness is a health issue. We need to consider approaches to loneliness as part of our health and mental health strategy."