Of the two million Australians living alone, 39% live on or below the poverty line (defined as 60% of median income). This group is more likely to be older (over the age of 55); female; have a disability; and those renting privately are in rental stress.
Anglicare’s latest research ‘Going it Alone’, confirms that people living alone are doing it tougher than most other types of household. The majority of people accessing Anglicare’s Food and Financial Assistance program are on Government income support, and over a third (37%) of them live alone.
“We compared single person households to other types of household, across nine different community service programs. The study shows that lone person households are not only financially disadvantaged but are also more likely to be socially disconnected,” said Grant Millard, Anglicare CEO.
“Being socially isolated is not simply a subjective feeling of loneliness. Social isolation is objective, and measures disconnection from important social networks. Our research shows that people living alone have fewer social connections; a lower sense of wellbeing; and a lower sense of control in decision making. A sense of control in decision making is important for people when dealing with the issues confronting them,” Mr Millard said.
To assess the level of social disconnection Anglicare used the Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI). The PWI is commonly used in Australian surveys to measure wellbeing, with scores out of 100.
Anglicare surveyed people accessing their Food and Financial Assistance (FFA) program and found that single person households are far less satisfied with their personal relationships (PWI:44) compared to other FFA clients (56), and the Australian population (79).
People living alone, accessing FFA are also less likely to feel part of their community (PWI:49) compared to other FFA clients (56) and the Australian population (71).
Anglicare research highlights that poverty and social isolation are often found together. Social isolation has been linked to adverse health outcomes such as heart disease, and to mental illness. Social isolation also impacts communities with increased pressure on health and social services.
Combating social isolation requires a multifaceted approach with strategic programs and interventions from service providers, and targeted policies from Government. It is a community issue requiring agencies, community groups, faith-based communities, business, government and other non-government organisations working together to address the need.
“Anglicare is determined to strengthen community and build social networks where we can to reduce the impact of poverty and social isolation. Apart from our Food and Financial Assistance program Anglicare provides Counselling and Mental Health Services; Community Aged Care and Social Support; and a Housing Assistance Program for older people,” Mr Millard said.
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