Loneliness NZ


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Rural and lonely

Rural New Zealanders like yourself live in the heart of nature, surrounded by natural beauty… and animals and native birds. For those living in bustling cities the chance to get away to the country seems idyllic.

And yet, it is easy to forget how living in rural New Zealand can often be extremely challenging with uncertainty…. unpredictable weather and climate change, slumping international markets, financial difficulties.

For some, where you have certainty, sometimes not the kind you want…like the unspoken thought of everyday waking up knowing you will feel lonely today.

So, if you are one of the many folk who does feel lonely in your remote area, or you know of someone who feels loneliness from this, then read on. In fact even if you suspect others might be lonely, and they stoically say they aren’t, it’s worth understanding rural loneliness better.

Scratching the surface of being lonely

Just as you might find it hard to understand how city dwellers feel lonely, it’s also hard for them to really grasp how very lonely you might be: what it’s like:

Being stuck

...in your farmhouse day-in day-out after the river damaged road access.

Hungering for

...some adult conversation, being the only adult at the school week after week.

Feeling isolated

... in your shop that didn’t get a customer today... just like several yesterdays.

Missing the company

... of your faithful dog who died..so having no-one to talk to out on the land for 12 hours straight again.

Feeling guilty

...that you are still lonely even though you talk to some of the millions of tourists travelling around New Zealand each year.

Your remoteness gives rise to many challenges with regard to feeling lonely...​

… and in addition to these, you undoubtedly identify with many of the same loneliness problems that people in our country have regardless of where they live.

Prevalence of loneliness

If you are living rurally and feeling lonely, it might help you to know are not the only one. In the last NZ General Social Survey the prevalence of loneliness across New Zealand rural areas is between 5% – 8.4% of the population aged 15 and above (see figure). Loneliness is particularly prevalent in the South Island – our most isolated rural region.
Bar chart showing by region New Zealanders aged 15+ feeling lonely most/all of time in last four weeks
Even though the percentage of people feeling lonely in the rural North Island is lower than the South Island, the numbers of actual lonely people in both regions is high!

RHĀNZ – Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand – indicates the rural population of New Zealand is around 600,000 people.

Could you have imagined that as many as 30,000 rural people might also be lonely along with you today?

Exposing loneliness

Feeling socially isolated occurs when people are not connected into their communities in a meaningful way.  Society, other people and we ourselves unwittingly contribute to loneliness.

To name a few, loneliness in rural New Zealand might be exacerbated when:

  • schools and tertiary institutions aren’t nearby, so the children need to board elsewhere.
  • a down-turn in the economy causes local pubs and shops closure isolating the few villagers left.
  • the locals find it hard to accept a stranger who doesn’t even know what crop farming is really all about.
  • your parents are working flat out day and night trying to get all the chores on the farm done, and come home so tired at night, you don’t want to bother them with how you feel.
  • your previous pace of life, and culture, was very different and you just don’t know how to fit in.
  • you are having a battle over property with your neighbour who had been your close friend for decades.

These are very real issues for you;
and some are not quick fixes! So despite these challenges it’s vital you actively find ways to ensure that you – and those around you – are emotionally healthy.

Exhibiting signs of being lonely

Solitude is very important for people to reflect and to come to grips with their situation.  Being lonely for short periods is also not necessarily unhealthy. What we are considering is the type of loneliness which is prolonged and might be damaging to an individual’s health and wellbeing. 

Some people talk about their loneliness; other’s don’t; Some might not recognise that they are actually suffering from loneliness.

When people are already lonely, having people around you that you aren’t able to connect with on a deeper level, might even make your loneliness worse.

Research has shown that when socially isolated people aren’t getting enough regular human contact that can create problems with their family members and people who they do end up talking to.

This manifests behaviour such as:

  • Finally getting a visitor and not giving them space to breathe.
  • When you are invited over to someone else’s home, you overstay your welcome.
  • Getting so used to being on your own you forget how to have a meaningful conversation.
  • Because everybody in your small group knows everybody else’s business, you don’t bother to converse.
  • Instead of going to the local pub which now has all the youngsters hanging out you just stay at home.  
  • You feel you are a burden to others so you start isolating yourself from your family.

These are just the surface of the ways you might be showing signs of being lonely… and that you could recognise in others.
So where to from here?

Conquering loneliness

We appreciate…

you all have a unique story.

How long you have been lonely;  What you believe causes your particular loneliness; and what you have already tried to alleviate the loneliness.

To get to the heart of your loneliness we would like to get to know you!

Your personality, your eccentricities, and your values are all part of what makes you feel your loneliness more than some others.

Your next step

We appreciate the trust you would place in us to talk openly and frankly – so we promise no judgements – genuine empathy, respect and confidentiality.

Then when we have understood you better, we can help you move forward. Help you form better connections with your spread out communities, with your friends and your families…wherever they are in the world.

If you are ready to take the next step, click the button to get started addressing your loneliness:

People feel lonely for many reasons. To learn more about other alone and lonely categories, select one of the coloured boxes below, or scroll down the “I’m feeling lonely” menu.

Loneliness NZ square I'm feeling lonely logo

With our help you can conquer your loneliness by taking better care of your inner self.

And we can conquer loneliness in New Zealand by better understanding and accepting each other.

So when you are ready…click here.

We look forward to hearing your view of the world!

Stats NZ (2016), “Well-being Statistics: 2016.” Download the data.