Single parents suffer from a lack of social support more than most. Picture: Thinkstock
Single parents suffer from a lack of social support more than most. Picture: Thinkstock

Unlikely health crisis sweeping the nation

LONELINESS has become a public health crisis as social isolation sweeps across Australians of all ages.

New research highlights that millions are struggling through life without meaningful relationships and single parents are the worst hit.

Data has been gathered from 16 waves of Household Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia survey statistics from 2001-2016 by Relationships Australia.

The shock revelation is that one in 10 Australians lack social support and one in six is experiencing emotional loneliness.

"Single parents, particularly single fathers, are most likely to experience a lack of social support with almost 40 per cent of younger fathers reporting a lack of social support and more than 40 per cent reporting emotional loneliness," National Executive Officer with Relationships Australia Alison Brook said.

"Widowed men and women under 65 years of age also report high rates of loneliness. Data shows that people in de facto relationships are lonelier than people in other relationship types. People with poorer health were also more likely to report higher rates of emotional loneliness and a lack of social support," she said.

Men in general are more likely to be lonely. Poverty, unemployment and poor relationships are significantly associated with loneliness and lonely people make greater use of the health system.

"Relationships Australia believes loneliness needs to be treated as a significant public health and social policy issue," Ms Brook said.

"We believe we can each take steps to prevent our own loneliness and that of our loved ones and that at a community level we each have a responsibility to look out for our neighbours who may be socially isolated.

"Additionally, in our rural communities, it is vitally important that neighbours look out for those doing it tough in the drought."

Earlier this year the Australian government announced in the Budget that $46 million would go towards the community visitors scheme which is designed to reduce loneliness in older adults. But this new research highlights a wider spread problem.