Key findings show:

  • Loneliness is experienced by more than one quarter of Australians and most Australians
    will experience loneliness in their lifetime: 37% of young people are lonely.
  • Loneliness is a silent killer: Lonely people have a 26% increased risk of death.
  • The impacts of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes or having six alcoholic drinks per day.
  • 54% are of people are lonelier after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loneliness — in a world of always-on social media and digital connectedness, it seems almost inconceivable that loneliness could become a health crisis affecting up to one in four Australians. It’s a health priority that has been almost entirely overlooked by health regulators and providers in Australia. And it’s one that has been exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Loneliness impacts over five million Australians and is a significant risk factor for poor physical health, mental health problems and decreased quality of life.

Connections Matter, a pro-bono report by KPMG Australia in collaboration with the Groundswell Foundation, has revealed the prevalence of loneliness across Australia, the significance of its impact on all areas of the community and outlines actions for both prevention and treatment of loneliness in Australia.

Loneliness can affect anyone. However, there are some groups that are more susceptible than others. Young adults are at particularly high risk, with 37–50% of people aged 18–24 reported to be lonely. Parents, particularly single parents, older people and people who live alone are also more impacted. It is also an issue among minority groups. First Nations people, those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and migrants experience higher levels of loneliness compared to national averages.

The Connections Matter report highlights the significant economic impacts of loneliness, with an annual healthcare cost to the Australian economy of $2.7 billion, or approximately $1565 per person per year. Mental health issues closely related to loneliness, including depression, are estimated to cost the economy up to $60 billion annually.

KPMG Mental Health Advisory Lead Andrew Dempster said: “Loneliness is a public health issue that many Australians identify with. However, it’s at risk of being trivialised because its impacts remain widely unrecognised. There is robust evidence to suggest that loneliness is detrimental to physical and mental health and can have profound socio-economic impacts.

“Loneliness also has a negative impact in the workplace, affecting both employees and employers.

Workplace loneliness is related to lower job and team performance, reduced productivity, increased workplace errors, reduced organisational commitment and poorer staff retention. Lonely employees also take more sick leave, creating downstream impacts to the Australian economy,” he said.

Groundswell Chairman Martin Blake commented: “Although most Australians will experience loneliness in their lifetime, it remains a widely misunderstood, under-recognised and poorly addressed issue in Australia. It is more important than ever that we address loneliness as society progresses beyond COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation restrictions.

“As we progress beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic, lockdowns and isolation restrictions and face into an unprecedented period of global economic uncertainty, it is now more important than ever for all levels of government to address this critical social and health issue.”

The way forward:

Given the economic and health impacts of loneliness, the Connections Matter report recommends three critical actions:
  1. Collaborate: Establish clear policy directions across national, state and local levels to raise awareness of loneliness as a priority issue and take targeted action.
  2. Communicate: Activating stakeholders from public, private and not-for-profit organisations to embed loneliness as a priority issue into new and existing health and wellbeing initiatives.
  3. Track progress: Build the evidence base for loneliness and interventions in Australia through dedicated data collection, research and evaluation.
Access the full report – Connections Matter


For further information

Natasha Boddy
+61 3 9288 5456

About this report

This report was compiled by KPMG based on emerging national and international research on loneliness. It outlines the prevalence of loneliness across Australia, as well as the significant societal and economic impacts. A series of case studies are included, highlighting successful interventions which have demonstrated positive impacts on reducing loneliness. The report also presents critical opportunities for government, not-for-profits, business and community to actively address the loneliness crisis.