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FIGHTING THE EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS THROUGH FRIENDLINE

Thursday, 13 August 2020
The Morrison Government is committing almost $5 million of federal funding to significantly expand Friend Line, a national telephone support service for Australians experiencing loneliness.

According to a recent study produced by Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University, The Australian Loneliness Report, one in four Australian adults are lonely.

Member for Reid Dr Fiona Martin MP believes that the expansion of the Friend Line service will be an important way to fight the modern epidemic of loneliness.

“As a Government, we’re taking the health impacts of loneliness seriously,” Dr Martin said. “We know that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, that it increases the risk of dementia, heart disease and depression. We need to see it as a serious public health issue.”

With a professional background as a psychologist, Dr Martin is acutely aware of the mental health impacts of loneliness on people of all ages.

“Many aspects of modern life increase the risk of loneliness, and this in turn can have serious impacts on our mental health,” Dr Martin said. “The evidence shows that a lack of social integration and support leads to higher rates of depression and anxiety.”

“According to the last census, over 20% of residents in my electorate of Reid are living alone,” Dr Martin said. “While this in itself isn’t an issue, we know that it can be one of the significant contributing factors to loneliness, especially for older Australians.”

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said access to timely support as well as digital and social connections were essential to support those experiencing loneliness.

“With a third of all older Australians living alone, there is a real need for this assistance to alleviate loneliness and social isolation,” Minister Ruston said.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said the funding for Friends Line would enable its provider to expand the service through to 30 June 2024.

“Friend Line is a free and anonymous telephone service that will provide older Australians an opportunity to chat with a friendly volunteer,” Minister Colbeck said. 

“In the first year Friend Line anticipates answering 20,000 calls scaling up to at least 60,000 a year after that up from 5600 calls a year currently.”

Friend Line (1800 4 CHATS) will rapidly expand to be available outside normal business hours between 10am to 8pm, seven days a week. 




Media Contacts
Vanessa Papastavros | 02 9715 7444 | Vanessa.Papastavros@aph.gov.au