The Relationships Indicators 2022 survey, released by Relationships Australia, has found that Australians are experiencing increased levels of loneliness – but nearly half of us struggle to seek support to help manage our relationships.
The Relationship Indicators project is a nationally representative survey into the state of relationships in Australia. These findings inform our efforts to support all Australians to achieve positive and respectful relationships.
In response to the enormous effects of the pandemic and other challenges in recent years, we recognised a shift in relationships and were interested in gaining a better understanding of these changes at a national level. In response, Relationships Australia decided to reinvigorate the project with a renewed focus on research design and method.
Our relationships are intertwined with our wellbeing
The findings of Relationship Indicators 2022 tell us that all types of relationships are extremely important for our wellbeing and satisfaction with life. They also prevent loneliness and mental ill-health. However, relationships are challenged by internal and external pressures and an inability or unwillingness to seek help when issues arise.
The continued impact of the pandemic and the rising cost of living was evident throughout the report. For example:
- A quarter (25.8%) of Australians cited work or study commitments as a pressure affecting their most important relationship
- One in five (20%) Australians cited money problems as a relationship pressure affecting this relationship
- 17.8% said the impact of the pandemic affected them
- 14.9% declared unfulfilled expectations as an issue
Respondents were able to choose as many pressures as they liked. 20% of Australians chose several of these pressures together, suggesting that they operate concurrently.
Loneliness is on the rise
The study also found concerning increases to the levels of loneliness in Australia. For example:
- 23.9% of Australians are exhibit symptoms of loneliness, compared to 17% in our 2018 Loneliness Report
- 28% of Australians are experiencing social loneliness
- Almost half (45.9%) of young people (18-24 years) are emotionally lonely.
Loneliness has been associated with poor physical health outcomes, mental ill-health and suicidality.
Despite these challenges, the report also uncovered an inability or unwillingness to seek help when relationship issues arise – 46.2% of Australians managed their relationship issues on their own.
Men struggle more than women to find connections
The trend to resist seeking help was especially true for men, who were found to be struggling to connect socially and emotionally throughout the report.
- 52.3% of men managed relationship issues on their own versus 40.5% of women
- 20.9% of Australians said their mother, sister, daughter, aunt etc. was their most important relationship in their life, while only 9.1% chose a man in their family
- People were more likely to rely on men for physical support, like helping in the garden, but relied on women for emotional and social support, such as spending time socialising or for helping when sick or feeling down
- One in five men (20.3%) feel emotionally lonely, and one in three men (32.3%) are socially lonely
Relationship Indicators 2022 provides insight into the integral role relationships play across the lifespan, affecting wellbeing, loneliness, safety and more. This survey reveals the significant need to support people across the country to maintain healthy and respectful relationships, particularly in light of the many, often concurrent, pressures that people in Australia currently face.
From these findings, we can see that support services must be tailored to meet the needs of various communities and targeted at responding to the external pressures that people face in these uncertain times. The findings from this research will be used to support our service provision and advocacy efforts to achieve a society where respectful relationships flourish.