By Georgia Parsonson
In 2020, COVID-19 brought to light the extraordinary toll social isolation and loneliness had upon people, regardless of age, gender, or physical wellbeing.
In the United States, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) found that social isolation significantly increased an individual’s risk of death. Increased also an individual’s risk of dementia by 50%; the risk of heart disease by 29%; and the risk of stroke by 32%, and was related to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Last week, the State Government resolved to address social isolation and loneliness in Queensland communities through a parliamentary enquiry.
According to Queensland’s Minister of Communities, Leeanne Enoch, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Queensland’s population, particularly on vulnerable people at the highest risk of social isolation and loneliness.
“In 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the personal stressor most experienced by Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic was loneliness,” Minister Enoch said.
“In fact, one in five Australians reported feelings of loneliness and social isolation as a result of the pandemic.
“That’s why during the 2020 election campaign, we committed to undertaking a Parliamentary Inquiry on social isolation and loneliness during the first 12 months of Government.
“I am proud to announce that we are delivering on this commitment, and in Parliament today, I referred this to the Parliamentary Community Support and Services Committee.”
The enquiry is targeted towards the causes and impacts of social isolation and loneliness and effective methods of combating these issues within Queensland communities.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation and loneliness have grown increasingly prevalent across the globe.
“We know that social isolation and loneliness have a significant impact on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of many people,” Minister Enoch said.
“Queenslanders such as seniors, people with disability and their carers, people with mental illness and young people are the most vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness.
“Everyone has a role to play in addressing social isolation and loneliness, including communities, governments, service providers and businesses, which is why we are providing opportunities for Queenslanders to provide input to this Parliament Inquiry.
“The Committee will also ensure that people who have been impacted by social isolation will be targeted for feedback into this Inquiry.
“All Queenslanders will also be able to have their say.”
The Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland has welcomed the enquiry.
Mark Tucker-Evans, COTA Queensland’s Chief Executive, has said that COVID-19 has emphasised the social isolation experienced by many members of the COTA Queensland community.
“Loneliness is a condition affecting many Queenslanders young and old and is leading to poorer physical and mental health outcomes,” he said.
“This Inquiry will look at both these separate yet related issues and should assist in building stronger social connections.”
According to Minister Enoch, the parliamentary enquiry is only one of many ways the Queensland Government is addressing these issues across the state.
“Through our Care Army, our network of more than 125 neighbourhood and community centres and other initiatives, we’ve been working hard to address social isolation in our communities,” she said.
“This Inquiry will further complement our work and aid us in developing and implementing a strategy to further address this issue.”
The Queensland Government’s parliamentary enquiry into Social Isolation and Loneliness is expected to be concluded by the 6th of December.