Social isolation, loneliness and wellbeing

‘Social isolation, loneliness and wellbeing’ is Chapter 2 in the Australia’s welfare 2023: data insights.

This page provides a high-level overview of the key messages presented in Chapter 2.

Download the full article: Chapter 2 [PDF 350 kB]

Download the full report: Australia’s welfare 2023: data insights [PDF 11.1 MB].

Social isolation and loneliness are concerning issues in Australia due to the impact they have on peoples’ lives and wellbeing. Loneliness has been linked to premature death, poor physical and mental health, greater psychological distress and general dissatisfaction with life.

This chapter discusses:

  • different measures of social isolation, loneliness, and wellbeing 
  • how Australians’ experience of these issues has changed over time, with a particular focus on changes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is in this chapter?

Who experiences loneliness?

This chapter identifies some of the key changes in experiences of loneliness reported by Australians before and during the pandemic. 

For example, 

  • An increasing number of people aged 15–24, especially females, have reported experiencing loneliness since 2012.
  • in April 2020 during the nation-wide lockdown due to COVID-19, almost half (45%) of respondents reported feeling lonely at least some of the time in the past week– the highest level recorded since the start of the pandemic.
  • throughout the pandemic, people aged 18–24 years were more likely than other age groups to report the highest levels of loneliness.

Who experiences social isolation?

The frequency of social contact, which may include both in-person and online contact, has been declining across all age groups in Australia for decades. 

This chapter identifies some of the key changes in experiences of social isolation reported by Australians since the start of the pandemic. For example, COVID-19 impact monitoring data showed that in August 2022, 4.8% of Australians reported never meeting socially – more than double pre-pandemic levels.

Prevention and reduction of social isolation and loneliness

Although social isolation and loneliness are now well-recognised public health concerns, there is little research into what works to resolve them. This chapter identifies participating in paid work, caring for others and volunteering as potential safeguards against loneliness and social isolation. 


This chapter presents findings from various surveys undertaken in Australia overtime which use reported life satisfaction as a measure of wellbeing. A section of the chapter focuses on the period since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and reports that by October 2022 economic concerns were becoming increasingly important in explaining the wellbeing of Australians.    

Where do I go for more information?