The Conversation

Your weekly dose of evidence

We might live in reasonably close proximity but a surprising number of Australians feel lonely and socially isolated – and it's impacting their  health. Lonely Australians report higher levels of social anxiety and depression, poorer quality of life, and more headaches, stomach problems, and physical pain. It's not just an issue for the elderly; younger adults report significantly more social anxiety than older Australians, as Michelle Lim explains.

Fron Jackson-Webb

Deputy Editor/Senior Health + Medicine Editor

Younger Australians struggle more with loneliness than older generations. Toa Heftiba

One in four Australians are lonely, which affects their physical and mental health

Michelle H Lim, Swinburne University of Technology

Half of Australians feel lonely for at least one day a week, while one in four feel lonely for three or more days. This can impact on sleep, heart health and levels of anxiety.

Few work environments offer greater isolation than Antarctica. Shutterstock

The benefits – and pitfalls – of working in isolation

Agustin Chevez, Swinburne University of Technology

Isolation at work can be unhealthy. But it can also be a good thing – as this researcher found out when he walked solo from Melbourne to Sydney.

Mick Tskias/AAP

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Andrew Giles on the growing issue of loneliness

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Ahead of the release of the most comprehensive data on loneliness in Australia, by the Australian Psychologists Society, Labor frontbencher Andrew Giles speaks about this "contagious phenomenon".

From the archives: loneliness

The deadly truth about loneliness

Michelle H Lim, Swinburne University of Technology

The unpleasant feelings of loneliness are subjective. Researchers have found they are less related to the amount of time spent alone and more related to the quality of relationships.

Many people feel lonely in the city, but perhaps ‘third places’ can help with that

Tony Matthews, Griffith University; Joanne Dolley, Griffith University

Third places are shared spaces where people can informally socialise. As a potential antidote to the modern scourge of loneliness, it's worth asking what makes the best of these places tick.

Technology doesn’t have to be lonely: encouraging dialogue over diatribe

Michael Cowling, CQUniversity Australia; Robert Vanderburg, CQUniversity Australia

As we all become mini publishers, we are losing the interactivity that fosters meaningful and healthy social interaction.

Loneliness is a health issue, and needs targeted solutions

Michelle H Lim, Swinburne University of Technology

The government has announced funding to combat loneliness in the elderly.

From our UK and US sites: loneliness

Edward Hopper’s ‘Office in a Small City’ (1953). Gandalf's Gallery

A history of loneliness

Amelia S. Worsley, Amherst College

Although loneliness may seem timeless and universal, the word seems to have originated in the 16th century,

Filipe Frazao /

Green spaces help combat loneliness – but they demand investment

Julian Dobson, University of Sheffield

Green spaces can help to address loneliness. But they are highly vulnerable to austerity.

Americans are becoming more socially isolated, but they’re not feeling lonelier

Sara Konrath, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Recent news reports suggest that the US is experiencing a loneliness epidemic. But the research is a bit more complicated.

Loneliness on its way to becoming Britain’s most lethal condition

Joe Smith, University of Liverpool

The condition is nothing short of a public health emergency.

Expert answers to serious, weird and wacky questions

Curious Kids: Why do people grow to certain sizes?

Anna Vinkhuyzen, The University of Queensland

Every human carries an instruction booklet with a very special code, called DNA. Our eyes cannot read the code, but our bodies can. The code tells our body what to do and how to look.

Curious Kids: Are there living things on different galaxies?

Jonti Horner, University of Southern Queensland

There are probably more than a million planets in the universe for every single grain of sand on Earth. That's a lot of planets. My guess is that there probably is life elsewhere in the Universe.

We asked five experts: are light dairy products better?

Alexandra Hansen, The Conversation

Five experts were divided on whether or not we should choose the "light"dairy option.

Curious Kids: How do we smell?

Rodrigo Suarez, The University of Queensland

The parts of the brain that get 'smell signals' from the nose also do other things, such as storing memories or provoking emotions. That is why some smells can bring back old memories.

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