University of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Loneliness, housing and health in Australia - results from a 2009 national survey

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 05:01 authored by Adrian FranklinAdrian Franklin, Bruce TranterBruce Tranter

This paper reports results from the 2009 national survey component of a preliminary investigation into the relationship between loneliness, housing, and health. The paper begins with i) a discussion ofloneliness in contemporary societies, ii) recent findings of growing levels of loneliness, and iii) its alarming implications for human suffering and health costs. Our survey results considered next, suggest that loneliness, housing and health are connected and that there may be grounds for policy to make positive interventions in at least four fields.

This paper asks whether housing, loneliness and health are connected in contemporary Australia, and if they are, is it a nexus that can be addressed positively through housing policy. Since loneliness has only recently emerged as a generalised and disturbing feature of contemporary societies (Flood 2005; Franklin 2009) there is practically no evidence of housing policy that addresses it explicitly or directly. It will be argued that high and increasing rates ofloneliness are relevant to future housing policy, not least because housing, loneliness and health are interlinked.

Loneliness is highly distributed socially and spatially but has remained largely hidden and difficult to detect (Franklin and Tranter 2008). Research on loneliness, housing and health offers policy makers a timely opportunity to broaden housing policy to address a major social structural problem of our time with considerable scope to increase well-being and social vitality (Bauman 2005; Cacioppo et al. 2009). While recent housing policy has focused on building social cohesion, social inclusion and reducing social isolation in areas characterized by social disadvantage and marginalization, recent research on loneliness demonstrates that these policy objectives have become relevant to a much wider set of cultural settings, sectors of the built enviromuent and places. This paper argues that housing policy designed to address a more evenly distributed and yet pernicious form of contemporary loneliness, with momentous ramifications for health and wellness, cannot rely on simply extending social contact or social networks. As Bauman (2000,2003), Putnam (2000) and many others have argued, the current epidemic ofloneliness is not about social connectivity and the net quantum of social interactions (which for many has actually increased) but about the quality of the social bonds enacted and maintained. Recent ARC funded research on loneliness among older people in residential housing was entitled 'Alone in a Crowd' (Jaworski and Moyle 2008) and reported on how residential propinquity can be converted into social bonds that matter, endure and enrich. This, in a nutshell, is the challenge for housing policy makers on a much wider scale. Not all of the causes ofloneliness are linked directly to housing, although the fastest growing and soon-to-be dominant housing form, single person housing, certainly is. We also present results for the 'other' category, but as this is a mixed group that is not clearly defined, do not refer to it in the analyses. Nonetheless, the lived experience ofloneliness has a housing context, is spatially concentrated in some places, and is located in some housing types and tenures more than others. This paper makes a contribution to the geography and lived experience of Bauman' s liquid modernity and demonstrates how his concern for loneliness as a structural outcome of looser social bonds plays out across the city and has ramifications for both health and local social relations.


Publication title

TASA 2010 Conference Proceedings: Social Causes, Private Lives


S Velayutham, N Ebert, & S Watkins






School of Social Sciences


The Australian Sociological Association

Place of publication

Sydney, Australia

Event title


Event Venue

Macquarie University, Sydney

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Rights statement

Copyright 2010 the Authors

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other culture and society not elsewhere classified

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania



    Ref. manager