Last year, we shone a light on the epidemic of loneliness affecting Australians – an emerging public health crisis. Loneliness can affect anyone, and you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely, but the effects of loneliness are isolating and distressing.

Loneliness is something that affects us all at different points in our lives. Our research showed that 44% of Australians feel lonely at least some of the time, and the experience of our younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials is even more stark: 54% of Gen Z and 51% of Millennials say they feel lonely some of the time, often or always. These numbers are confronting and show us that we must make a change.

Reconnect this International Day of Friendship

Have you heard of International Friendship Day? It’s a UN initiative and a great reminder to reconnect! We can all make a real difference in this world, individually and as a collective, when we put our minds and actions towards something.

To that end, on this International Day of Friendship Day we’re encouraging you reconnect with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. The way you do so is entirely up to you; you could send a quick email, or even a quick text message – or how about a phone call?

Recent research also suggests that reaching out to connect with an old friend is hugely powerful in making that person feel acknowledged and appreciated. It’s even more effective when it’s a surprise – maybe a friend you haven’t talked to in years, or an acquaintance you connected with a couple of times in the distant past.

Feeling connected to others helps you too, with positive effects on your physical and mental health. Our social needs and ability to meet those needs can vary. Some people prefer to connect with one other person and others in larger groups.

Now it’s your turn to connect

On this year’s International Friendship Day, we hope you can take inspiration and reconnect with a friend that you haven’t talked to in a while. It might help both of you more than you realise!

Dr Michelle Lim, Australia’s leading scientific expert in loneliness says:

‘For many of us, the friendships we formed are for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. We may have reservations on reconnecting with people we have lost touch with or grown apart. If you have unfounded reservations (i.e., no reason for disconnection such as having a conflict/disagreement) and want to reconnect, this could be a time to reach out.

Consider whether these tips can help you get started:

  • Reflect on why you want to reconnect. Remember how you cultivated a friendship with this person before, and why you want to reconnect. This can trigger good positive memories in which the friendship was formed on.
  • Do what makes you comfortable. It may be easier to email or send a text as opposed to calling someone. For others, they may prefer to call. Do what you think works best for you.
  • Keep it brief. A simple short message to say hi and that you are thinking about that person and inviting them to connect when it suits can work. You can always fill in details about what you missed when you reconnect.
  • Keep it flexible. Reaching out to someone does not mean you have to put in more effort than you can afford. It can be a simple check in on the person’s current life every once in a while.

Don’t take it personally. We can’t see what is happening in people’s lives. If you do not get a response, it is likely about what is happening for the other person. Connection (and reconnection) works best when it is reciprocated. If you reach out and don’t hear back, reconnect another time.

If you need help with your mental health, or if you’re struggling in any way, support is here for you through Beyond Blue, Lifeline and the Kids Helpline. Our Talking Loneliness hub also has resources that can help, and stories from everyday Australians experiencing loneliness that might help you feel less alone. If you just want to say hi to someone, give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter!