Younger people and women feeling lonelier this Festive season

7 December 2021

New data from Australian Red Cross reveals one in three people feel lonely during the festive season, but feelings of loneliness are more prevalent in women and younger people.

The annual survey of 1000 people commissioned by Red Cross found it was people in the younger age bracket, 18 – 29, who felt more alone, and more women (40%) said they felt lonely compared to men (26%). The rate of loneliness had increased on pre-pandemic years. 

“After a tumultuous year of snap lockdowns and significant restrictions across Australia, it’s not surprising that people are feeling they have lost connections, are experiencing loneliness and are a little hesitant about the festive season. It’s also apparent that younger people are worried about possible border closures keeping them from family and friends,” Red Cross Director of Volunteering Penny Harrison said. 

One in three people said they were less excited for the festive season than in previous years, and 61% of people were concerned about vulnerable family and friends being lonely if travel restrictions were in place. 

“While the survey offers a sobering look at how Australians are feeling heading into what will be their second COVID festive period, it was heart-warming that three quarters of people surveyed believe we need to look after more vulnerable people at this time of year,” Ms Harrison said. 

“There are plenty of things everyone can do to try and make life a little brighter for people who are struggling. Pick up the phone and reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to this year or check in on a neighbour who lives alone.  

“We also found a surprisingly high number of people don’t have plans for Christmas Day – one in five respondents who live alone, or who are aged over 70 - so we’d encourage people to reach out to those who are isolated.”  

A team of Red Cross volunteers will make more than 2,700 social support calls nationally to people on Christmas day as part of the TeleCross program, a service that runs 365 days a year.  

“For many people this is the only conversation they will have that day. Our volunteers want to make someone’s day a little brighter knowing someone has reached out and is happy to listen,” Ms Harrison said.  

Top tips to give the gift of a brighter day. 

  • Pick up the phone and reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with. 

  • Check in on a neighbour who lives alone or send them a friendly note in the mailbox.  

  • Volunteer for Red Cross or other organisations to lend a hand in your community 

  • Donate to Red Cross so we can deliver services helping socially isolated people form meaningful and life-affirming connections. 

Key Data:  

Over half surveyed agreed COVID-19 had changed their relationships and the way they see the world (52%). More than two in five people (42%) felt hesitant to returning to life as normal. 

What festive plans do people have? 

  • Three quarters of people had plans for December 25th (74%) - significantly up on last year (60%)  

  • 1 in 5 people aged 70 plus, living alone or retired did not have plans.  

  • People aged 18-39 were more concerned (36%) than others that borders could be closed.  

How are people are feeling this festive season? 

  • More people reported feeling lonelier in the lead up, and during, the festive season compared with 2020 (33% in 2021 compared to 29% 2020)   

  • 18 – 29-year-olds feel lonelier (44%) compared to the total population (33%) 

  • Significantly more women (40%) surveyed feel lonelier than men (26%)  

  • Of those who could be impacted by border closures/travel restrictions, 61% were concerned vulnerable friends and family would be lonely if travel restrictions remain in place.  

Regional Australia data: 

  • Just under 7 in 10 (68%) of regional Australians have plans for Christmas Day, significantly less than metro respondents (76%) 

  •  2 in 5 regional Australians (37%) say they often feel lonely during the festive season 

Note to editor Australian Red Cross commissioned the survey with a representative sample of over 1,000 people from across Australia above 18 years in late November 2021. 

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