One of the things that draw me as a listener and as an employee to Talk Back radio is that it brings the community together instantaneously to talk about things that are on our minds.

With interesting times we’re all living at present, its any wonder that I’m hearing more people, I wouldn’t pick as ‘talk back types’, are now tuning in to a format previously thought to be for another generation.

Of course many of these people have in fact matured and become that ‘other’ generation, but I also sense there’s a growing thirst for information and affirmation from their community, on a range of topics that doesn’t just include politics.

The subject I see that doesn’t get enough community ‘chat’ is loneliness.

The misconception about loneliness is that it affects only those living on their own, devoid of family and friends.

Or perhaps the elderly that have lost family ties, which we seem to accept as a widespread inevitable.

And it is, and it’s also not.  Loneliness is a state that affects all areas of society.   For one reason or another have lost that healthy connection to society and feel personally and emotionally isolated.

I spoke with Professor John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago and the author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection last week, who has traced the need for connection to our evolutionary roots.

He believes ‘in order to survive in the past, humans needed to bond to rear their children. In order to flourish, they needed to extend their altruistic and cooperate.’

Just as physical pain is a prompt to change behaviour, such as moving a finger away from the fire, loneliness evolved as a prompt to action, signalling an ancestral need to repair the social bonds’.

But it seems we may not be acknowledging or realizing there is this internal prompt going on?

Maybe we are so fixated on how fabulous the world now is with all this modern technology connecting us all, that we’ve forgotten our comfortable ‘real, physical, tangle’ beginnings?

Or are we presuming that feeling a certain way that we haven’t identified as ‘lonely’ is just the natural par for course in a somewhat difficult life?

‘The problem of social isolation is likely to grow as conventional family structures die out’ Professor Cacioppo says.  ‘People are living longer, having fewer children later in life and increasingly mobile around the world.’’

It’s odd to me that we can discuss the fact that people become alcoholics, but don’t delve enough into why?

We can identify that Australia has an obesity problem and determine we need health education but leave the question of why we’re over eating emotionally from that why?

The professor believes that lack of connection with others not only makes us unhappy but it is also bad for the wellbeing of the body and mind.

According to his findings, loneliness can involve feelings of rejection or isolation, which can increase blood pressure, stress levels and bad health, as well as increasing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

It seems to be a vicious circle, which we haven’t quite worked out yet.

But if we accepted, based on his theory, like when for instance we’re hungry, we realise we need to eat, then maybe when we feel the pangs of loneliness which many of us feel, we don’t act on that feeling related to healthy survival.  We’re not identifying it as a warning?

It’s not an easy solution I understand, as many people that are lonely are possibly knowingly or otherwise lacking self-esteem.

But there should be community awareness that breaking the cycle should be on our radar.  Or just seeing that loneliness is sadly, everywhere?

I explained to a friend recently, having experienced loneliness and depression, that depression is debilitating, but loneliness is soul destroying.

They’re separate, and have a different voice.

She got it.  It made sense.  So I hope soon we put it appropriately on our radar.  It makes sense to do so, if it is, as I believe, out there.


  1. Loneliness is the worst kind of affliction…it’s about intimacy..not a sexual kind but having someone around that is genuinely caring about how is work, what are you doing for your birthday, lets go for a walk, coffee etc…having an ongoing rapport with cannot be manufactured…you either have it or you don’t…going to a club or community project is great whilst you’re there…but not fulfilling like lonely people need…once you’ve left you’re feeling lonely again..having friends you catch up with every so often is good but what’s needed is a connection that is still felt after you’ve said goodbye….thats how I feel anyway…

    • I know exactly what you mean Kristina. it’s really heart breaking isn’t it? If everyone in the world had experienced loneliness at least once in their lives, like I did, they would look after for others and make an effort a hell of a lot more than they do because it would make them to sad to think about someone else going through it. I’m going to keep raising this subject in columns and on air. I think it resonates with more people than we’d care to think. Thanks for writing xx

  2. After reading your interesting column Amber, I have to agree that loneliness is an ongoing problem that no one really wants to talk about yet it exists in our everyday lives and affects a widespread number of people in our community. There is no magic pill to take that will help make it go away. The problem of alcohol abuse too is widespread and is a large part directly linked to fragmented families,loneliness and isolation. Family and friends are an intregal part of our lives and help us to stay connected. Sadly in this modern impersonal, high tech world we live in the main way people stay connected with each other is via Twitter, Facebook & the all encompassing mobile phones…

    • You’re right alcohol is also an issue. Obviously lots of people end up isolated and lonely due to fall outs with friends and family, and people just don’t have the tools to mend broken relationships or to heal their own issues which makes them
      withdraw or push people away. That’s not always why people end up alone if course but yea these modern technologies are not often bringing us together. They’re creating an illusion that we’re all getting closer. Intimacy in the non sexual way is about real, tangible human contact. If that’s not there, then we are still alone, and it’s not good for the soul ongoing . Thank you for taking the time to read my piece and offer your thoughts.

  3. No I agree with that call. It’s a shame… Men think its weak to express themselves. Unfortunately loneliness can bring on depression and depression can bring on loneliness. Not sure what the solution is. Society has become such a way that it is now quite normal that people just simply dont really care about others anymore. And in a way I don’t blame them.. Most have enough trouble trying to sort out their own issues, let alone those of others.

    • It is a shame. I feel sorry for a lot of blokes out there. It’s hard enough for all of us sometimes to get through tough periods but even worse for those that don’t feel able to express how they’re feeling. And on top of that because men are still predominantly the bread winners when there’s a young family involved, financial pressure on top of mental anguish is an enormous amount for one person to endure. Western society is becoming more and more insular and as you say, not caring enough about others. We’re too obsessed with what’s going on online or on the TV. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  4. Unfortunately it’s not just men who suffer Amber, which is why it’s widely not spoken about. Women, the elderly, widows, single parents, new mothers, children, victims of crime, offenders, hospital patients, and most concerning and heart breaking, people with disabilities all suffer from depression. When you consider this list, do you agree almost everyone will, at some stage, be exposed to this terrible illness, which will either be caused by loneliness, or will most likely play a role in causing it?

    • Sadly I do think most people will experience it at some point. And it is part of the human journey to have dark and light moments in life but it’s dangerous when people can’t express themselves and keep it tO themselves. It’s a complex issue and each persons story and lead up different. Therefore how to improve each persons life that is suffering can differ. But talking is the greatest first step to moving towards the light out of the dark.

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