Only lonely for some

Only lonely for some

Media release — 15 December 2015

Only lonely for some

It’s official … living alone can make some people feel lonelier and less satisfied with life, according to new research released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

However, not everyone is lonely and it’s worse for men whose satisfaction with life fell sharply when they found themselves alone.

Senior Research Fellow, Professor David de Vaus said a quarter of all Australian households were now made up of people living alone, up from one-fifth in the mid eighties and for some people it was a lonely existence.

“The study found that 26 per cent of people living alone reported feeling lonely often, compared to 16 per cent of people living with others. People living alone were also slightly less satisfied with their lot in life,” Professor de Vaus said.

“Fewer of those living alone had a sense that they had high levels of social support compared to people who lived with others and they were also more likely to say they got bored.

“Overall, almost a quarter of those living alone rated their health as below average, compared to 17 per cent of those living with others but interestingly, there was no difference in mental health.

“People experienced living alone differently. Some people value the independence and autonomy that living alone gives them, while others may find the use of social media helps to keep them in touch with others.

“The study found loneliness and lower life satisfaction levels were more evident among men who lived alone, than women, who typically adjusted more quickly to changing circumstances.

“Loneliness increased more sharply for men when they started to live alone than it did for women who appeared to ward off loneliness by increasing their involvement with friends and family.

“Overall, living alone led to a sustained increase in loneliness among both older and younger men. While older women experienced an increase in loneliness, this tended to be short-term.

“For men, the drop in life satisfaction is likely to be partly because their relationship has ended and this can be a difficult time especially when it involves less contact with their children.”

The study drew on data from The Household Income and Labour Dynamics In Australia (HILDA) and Living Alone In Australia Surveys.

Report co-author Senior Research Fellow, Dr Lixia Qu said the research found that solo men engaged in less healthy behaviours than those in shared living arrangements.

“Men who live alone were more likely to drink fairly heavily, defined here as consuming at least five to six standard drinks at a time,” Dr Qu said.

“However, these patterns appeared to be a continuation of a lifestyle that was already pretty well established before the men began living solo.

“For most people, living alone was a relatively short-term arrangement that acted as a transition between other family living arrangements. The exception was for older people who tended to live alone for longer periods.”

Read Australian Family Trends No. 9: The nature of living alone in Australia and Australian Family Trends No.10: Living alone and personal wellbeing