While the holiday period is traditionally a time to rejoice with friends and family, it can be a source of extreme loneliness for many, according to a leading psychologist.
Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Charles Darwin University, Dr Peter Forster said that for people who were lonely, Christmas was just something to get through as quickly as possible.
“Elderly people are particularly prone to loneliness over the holiday period,” he said.
“It’s not unusual each Christmas for a number of elderly people to die alone and unnoticed over the holiday.”
Dr Forster said that loneliness was not restricted to those who lived on their own.
“People who have partners away for long periods working in Defence and mining, people who have partners working long hours, and single parents are all susceptible,” he said.
Dr Forster said there were a number of measures that people could take to remedy their sense of social isolation.
“Volunteer at a local charity or a local sports club. Giving time to others is a great and rewarding experience,” he said. “And volunteers help keep communities alive.
“Meeting others who care about the same things is good for getting that essential human contact. It also gives most people a sense of meaning in their lives.
“If an older person in your neighbourhood is alone, offer to help with the shopping, or just give them a call or drop by for a cup of tea. If they’ve got arthritis, offer to help write cards or wrap presents.”
Dr Foster said he believed that a little time could make a big difference to someone’s life, and the person you were helping might be yourself.
If you think the way you feel might be more than loneliness then talk to your doctor or a psychologist. Lifeline is a confidential telephone counselling service that is available 24/7. P: 131 114 or visit http://www.lifeline.org.au.