Australia leading international study to tackle loneliness epidemic

Australians are being asked to participate in a challenge to build deeper real-life connections with their neighbours, as part of a global study into how random acts of kindness impact loneliness. 

The study is being funded by Nextdoor Australia, a company that hosts online neighbourhood hubs to connect people with information and goods and services. 

Nextdoor Australian Country Manager Jennie Sager said recent research revealed that one in four Australians report feeling lonely at least 3 days a week.

“There’s a difference in being alone and being lonely because you can choose to be alone but being lonely is totally different and not by choice,” said Sager. 

“It’s as damaging to your health as smoking about 15 cigarettes a day. And, if you can build strong, social relationships you can increase your health and wellbeing by more than 50%,” she said. 

Jennie Sager, Nextdoor Country Manager 

“At Nextdoor, we know that strong meaningful relationships are crucial to good health and that change starts with each of us opening our doors and building connections with the people nearest to us: our neighbours,” said Sager. About Nextdoor

Australian psychologist, Dr. Michelle Lim, who will lead the KIND (Kindness is Nextdoor) Challenge, says that volunteers that participate in the world first international study will be advancing knowledge on the subject of loneliness.

“Our study is the first of its kind in terms of global scale as it is being conducted across three countries. It will examine the effects of these connecting behaviours and whether these small acts can improve one’s quality of life, health, and wellbeing,” said Dr Lim. 

Dr. Michelle Lim

Lim said random acts of kindness and other social interactions may include simple things like buying the neighbour a cup of coffee, organising a walking group, a community cleanup or randomly saying ‘hello’ to people in the street.  

“Loneliness is processed in the brain as stresser. When you are stressed your bodies don’t work as well. You have poorer outcomes with cardiovascular health we don’t fight viruses well and our mental health is lower,” said Lim. 

“Anecdotally people say we are very connected – but we’re not really connected – so we are interested in what is a ‘meaningful connection’ that will satisfy your needs, as opposed to quantity or just being around lots of people. 

Nextdoor says it’s proud to be working with Dr Lim and other world-leading loneliness experts which include UK-based Dr Pamela Qualter, an expert in child and adolescent loneliness, and US-based Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an expert on social isolation.  

A Nextdoor neighbour gathering

“Belonging is a universal human need, and in every corner of the world people are yearning to feel more connected with real people in real places in real ways,” said Sager. 

Sager said that participant data would be kept confidential and participants may be eligible to win prizes. The organisers say that participants will have to fill out 3 brief online surveys.  Check out the study here.

Nextdoor is a privately owned company founded in San Francisco with platforms in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and Canada.