Rachelle Sinclair at her home in Sydney’s  Marrickville. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Rachelle Sinclair at her home in Sydney’s Marrickville. Picture. Phil Hillyard

The real reason you have no friends

EXCLUSIVE

AUSTRALIANS are suffering from a "loneliness crisis" as we have fewer friends and less contact with our neighbours than a decade ago.

News Corp Australia can reveal exclusive data that shows just how disconnected we are from one another and the price we are paying for it.

An OmniPoll survey of 1200 Australians conducted by Martin O'Shannessey has shown 17 per cent of Australians had no friends they could visit without invitation when surveyed last month. This is up from just 7 per cent in 1984.

MORE: Kids turn violent as parents battle screen addiction

Designer Rachelle Sinclair is grateful for the welcome she receieved when she moved to Sydney’s Marrickville.  Picture. Phil Hillyard
Designer Rachelle Sinclair is grateful for the welcome she receieved when she moved to Sydney’s Marrickville. Picture. Phil Hillyard

The average number of close friends people have has also close to halved in just 13 years, with those surveyed saying they only have 3.9 close friends in 2018, compared to the 6.4 close friend average in 2005.

Neighbourly help has also plummeted with 18 per cent of Australians saying they couldn't reach out to any of their neighbours for assistance in times of crisis, this has risen from 11 per cent of Australians who said the same thing in 2005.

Experts say the infiltration of technology into many facets of our lives is partly to blame for fewer personal connections and deep friendships.
Experts say the infiltration of technology into many facets of our lives is partly to blame for fewer personal connections and deep friendships.

The new findings come as News Corp Australia can also reveal data from Relationships Australia that shows more men (15 per cent) than women (8 per cent) reported that they had no close friends outside of their long-term relationship.

Women (30 per cent) were more likely than men (19 per cent) to report they had five or more close friends outside of their relationship.

Alison Brook, national executive officer for Relationships Australia said Australia was suffering from a "loneliness crisis" .

"As a population Australians are more time poor, now with many households having all adults in employment with less time for community engagement and neighbourhood connections," Ms Brook said.

"We are suffering from a loneliness crisis in our community."

Kristy Goodwin, digital expert, said the infiltration of technology into many facets of our lives was partly to blame for fewer personal connections and deep friendships.

An increase in screen time is being blamed for the decline in social interaction.
An increase in screen time is being blamed for the decline in social interaction.

So too was a more mobile society, high-density housing and less remaining in one spot for 50-years, she said.

"We're spending more time on our screens which means there is less time for social interaction," she said.

"This data is quite striking. We seem to be highly connected digitally but less connected in real life and people are not prioritising real relationships. Your online friends are not always your real friends."

Mark McCrindle, CEO of McCrindle Research, said the decrease in meaningful relationships would have huge implications for mental wellbeing

"At the same time that we've seen the decline in social connection we've also seen a rise in mental health issues," he said.

"Now we medicalise mental health issues but it used to be that we would catch up with friends to talk about how we were feeling and we are really missing out on that."

The decrease in meaningful relationships has huge implications for mental wellbeing.
The decrease in meaningful relationships has huge implications for mental wellbeing.

Mr McCrindle said if we did not do something to change the tide increased social isolation would be the result.

"We will batten down more and more into our silos and this will worsen."

Shadow Minister for Charities Andrew Leigh, who reported on the earlier surveys in his book Disconnected, said that the findings were disturbing.

"Since the 1960s, Australia has seen a decline in membership of organisations such as churches, unions, Scouts, Guides and service clubs. But these new findings reveal that the same trends are hollowing out our communities," Dr Leigh said.

David Chalke, CEO of Australia Scan, said the findings were not cause for panic.

"I don't know that necessarily the past was always that glorious and I think we are looking back with rose coloured glasses about neighbourly connections of past," he said.

"Some people prefer to stick to themselves and technology has facilitated that but I'm not sure it's necessarily a bad thing. People no longer have to fake it if they don't want to."

Rachelle Sinclair has recently moved to Sydney’s Marrickville. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Rachelle Sinclair has recently moved to Sydney’s Marrickville. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Jennifer Wilkinson sociologist of friendship at Sydney University said women were often making more friends at work than men which supported the Relationships Australia data.

She said the nature of friendships were changing and people were defining close relationships in different ways these days.

We might not be making friends with our neighbours but we are making friends in other public situations like at work. The boundaries between the public and private worlds are changing," Dr Wilkinson said.

New mum Rachelle Sinclair, who runs her design business from her home in Sydney's Marrickville, says she was grateful her neighbours reached out.

"We're so lucky because we moved in here when I was heavily pregnant and our neighbours introduced themselves pretty quickly," she said. "I feel like my neighbourhood is rare, but I know a lot of people in the area



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