BCEC launches ‘Stronger Together: Loneliness and social connectedness in Australia’ report

ContactsJoanna Holcombe, Industry Engagement Coordinator
Published23 November 2021

Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre’s latest publication – Stronger Together: Loneliness and social connectedness in Australia – was launched at a lunch event at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday 19 November 2021.

Nyungar elder Elizabeth Hayden provided a meaningful Welcome to Country, before Bankwest Chief Risk Officer John Hart delivered opening remarks.

“There was an initial novelty to COVID as witnessed by Bankwest’s spending data… But scams data shows the biggest issue in COVID was romance scams: people were missing connecting with others,” Mr Hart said.

Alan Duncan presenting from a lectern
Professor Alan Duncan.

Presenting the report findings, Professor Alan Duncan, co-author and Director, BCEC, spoke of the worrying increase in isolation in Australia.

“Nearly 3 million Australians report being lonely most of the time, up 800,000 in the last 10 years,” Prof Duncan said.

“COVID-19 has amplified these trends due to isolation, uncertainty about work and income and the inability to future plan.”

Associate Professor Astghik Mavisakalyan, BCEC Principal Research Fellow and co-author, highlighted the link between ill health and loneliness.

“Lonely people are more likely to become sick, and the sick are more at risk of being lonely,” A/Prof Mavisakalyan said. “Increasing rates of loneliness come at a high cost to our society.”

Watch the full Stronger Together report launch

Led by Broadcaster and Journalist Mark Gibson, the panel was made up of leaders from a range of sectors impacted by loneliness, as surfaced through the research in the new report.

Christine Allen, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on the Ageing WA, spoke about the importance of the Stronger Together report.

“I think this report is really important at this time in an ageing population right across the world,” Ms Allen said. “What we’ve seen in this report… is that it is the vulnerable cohorts are feeling the disadvantage more than anybody else.”

Brendan Cullinan, Chief Executive Officer, People With disabilities WA, talked about inclusive solutions for loneliness and isolation for people with disabilities.

“There is a conscious or subconscious position of ableism in our society,” Mr Cullinan said. “Any solutions that you’re looking at must have that true co-design approach and be developed by people with disabilities.”

Panel members from the Stronger Together report launch on stage
Panel members during the Stronger Together report launch.

Nick Maisey, Chief Executive Officer, Befriend, touched on long-held isolation among diverse and vulnerable groups in society.

“This all takes place within a social context and an attitudinal set where different forms of prejudice and discrimination have meant that many different people have been experiencing disconnection for a very long time,” Mr Maisey said.

“[This has been] on the basis of gender, age, sexual orientation, culture, language, ethnicity; different forms of diversity that are resulting in people experiencing social devaluation, and therefore loneliness and social isolation as a result.”

In delivering the vote of thanks, Professor Chris Moran, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Curtin University, noted the desire for the most basic of human connections.

“I don’t think we need a pandemic or a study on loneliness to want people to pick up the phone,” Prof Moran said.

Students from Rockingham Senior High School and Presbyterian Ladies’ College were in attendance.

Watch: Key findings from the Stronger Together report