Did you know that young adults are one of the most lonely demographics? Introducing We Are Lonely, a reality documentary with heart, drawing on real stories and real solutions, connecting young people with experts and industry leaders who will help them build strategies to reconnect.
In this six-part series, we understand the reality of loneliness in Australia, experienced by a generation that theoretically has never been more connected. Part of Medibank’s 10-year commitment to tackle loneliness, We Are Lonely is hosted by Jemma Sbeghen (host of The Psychology Of Your 20s) and features mentors Dr Deidre Anderson, Barry Conrad, Sean Szeps and Tessa Blenclowe. Experts involved include Professor Ian Hickie (Co-Director of Health and Policy, University of Sydney) and Dr Lisa Mundy (Developmental Psychologist). The podcast is produced by Liz Keen (ABC, Four Corners) and Simon Portus (ABC, Wild Kitchen.) The podcast launched on August 7th, 2023.
The impact of loneliness on Australians
“Loneliness is something we all need to start talking about '' says Jemma Sbeghen in episode 0. 1 in 3 Australians are experiencing loneliness and it's a worldwide issue. The UK has a Minister for Loneliness and the US Surgeon General has declared loneliness a health epidemic. If we learn to manage and minimise loneliness, it’s no more than a healthy human emotion. If it becomes chronic, it can have the same impact on us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It also increases the risk of premature death by 26% (Australian Isolation of Health & Wellness) and is associated with chronic conditions like cancer (Ending Loneliness Together White Paper).
To make sure that the podcast is relevant to the complexities of this topic, we recruited experts who have researched loneliness extensively and have first hand experience and passion to help people with their wellbeing.
"This project is so exciting because of what it captures about this generation.” says host Jemma Sbeghen.
“We think that loneliness is only for those who are older or have retired, but really, it's young people like me that are dealing with this so acutely.
It's something I speak about on my own show a lot, so having the opportunity to speak about it more broadly and alongside some incredible people and experts felt so perfectly aligned."
Additionally, mentors include Dr Deirdre (Dee) Anderson AM, recognised worldwide for her mentoring and support of elite athletes and has worked with some of Australia’s sports superstars including Ian Thorpe and Cathy Freeman. From the media world, mentor Sean Szeps is best known for sharing stories about parenting and mental health and about being queer, he has his own podcast and popular Instagram channel and has written a book about his experience as a queer dad.
Meet the four real Australians tackling loneliness
Drawing on widely held and relatable experiences of isolation, identity struggles, relationships and addiction, the participants in the study are vulnerable about their experiences.
24-year-old Tim is a young gay man from mixed Asian and Australian background, who had built a close community centred around his life, uni, drag, LGBTQIA+ culture, and gaming. But after moving from Perth to Melbourne during COVID, he struggled to maintain connections and became overly reliant on gaming.
Charity is 25 and living in Coffs Harbour on Gumbaynggirr Country. She used to have sense of family and people coming together when she was younger, but now feels she needs to work on her confidence to build connections with others. Charity’s lack of confidence leads her to feel anxious when socialising and as a result she often hides away from others.
Holly is 24 years old and lives down the coast of Victoria. After finishing VCE, Holly experienced significant trauma and as a result she developed PTSD, becoming ill. Bed-ridden, Holly became isolated and disconnected, leaving her severely lonely. Now she has recovered, Holly seeks to build back connections.
26-year-old Aleks is a philosophy student and content creator based in Melbourne. Aleks’ commitments to several different self-guided projects, including hosting a podcast, teaching a philosophy course, writing, and making videos, has meant that he often spends lots of time alone. “I feel relieved to be part of a project like this because when I feel lonely the things I do increase these negative feelings” he says.
Why a podcast?
We Are Lonely could have been a documentary, a TikTok series or a book. What makes the content most fitting to the podcast format?
Spotify’s Culture Next report shows that for Gen Z, “podcasts serve as a safe space for processing their feels.”
“Whether they’re feeling too vulnerable to speak up or still figuring out the right words to describe what they’re feeling, podcasts are a judgment-free zone,”
the report says. “Podcasts have become a space for Gen Z to work through life’s most complex issues.” (Inside Radio 22)
How the podcast will help people connect
In We Are Lonely, through real stories, we understand the reality of loneliness in Australia experienced by a generation that theoretically has never been more connected. How can we break the stigma by learning how to manage one of the most misunderstood human emotions? The podcast is supported with a range of information and resources on the We Are Lonely site. Medibank has also formed a strategic partnership with online youth mental health and wellbeing service ReachOut, working together to grow their PeerChat program, a text-based chat platform designed to help young people feel less alone by connecting them to peer workers with lived experience.
“We couldn’t be more proud of Series 2 of the We are Lonely podcast which is raw, honest and real. When we started our 10 year commitment to tackle Loneliness in Australia, we knew we had to lift awareness, create conversations and importantly normalise and destigmatise loneliness. It’s the about making health impacts upstream to improve both physical and mental health of people living in Australia.” - Medibank Senior Executive Wellbeing and Community and member of the advisory board of Ending Loneliness Together Karen Oldaker.
Commenting on the partnership, Ranieri & Co. Co-Founder Rob Ranieri says:
“We are passionate about powerful audio storytelling and couldn't have found a more genuine, passionate and knowledgeable group of people to partner with on We Are Lonely.
The unique blend of real human stories, compassionate mentors and mental health experts makes it incredibly engaging to listen to and connect with. We can’t wait to transform loneliness into connection through this wonderful project.
This is an exciting time for the business as we expand our partnerships with some of Australia’s most compelling and popular content and businesses making a difference like Medibank.”
About Ranieri & Co
In Australia and New Zealand, Ranieri & Co. exclusively represent leading local podcasts such as The Byron Cooke Show, The Mind Muscle Project, The Fitness and Lifestyle Podcast, Single Minded and The Junkees with Dave O'Neil and Kitty Flanagan. Ranieri & Co.'s first two original podcasts, Motherlode and The Long Haul, are out now. Find out more at www.ranieriandco.com