Medibank and Liminal team up to fight loneliness

WITH almost all patients (96 per cent) believing loneliness in hospital is likely to peak at Christmas time, Medibank has teamed up with Virtual Reality specialists, Liminal, to launch 'Joy' -- an immersive storytelling experience for patients to enjoy over the festive season.

Joy aims to provide an immersive audiovisual environment which helps alleviate feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Liminal Clinical Neuroscientist and Neuropsychologist, Sami Yamin, said "Medibank's research shows many hospital patients suffer from loneliness, but feel too unwell to do something about it."

"Knowing this, we've helped create an experience which transports patients from their current situation and allows them to feel unencumbered by their physical constraints for a while.

"Joy was conceived out of extensive research into the known alleviators of loneliness -- including pet therapy, bibliotherapy and the incorporation of nature scenes -- resulting in an experience which takes patients into a virtual world where they can feel comfort and connection."

While Lifeline data has shown three in five Australians are affected by loneliness, new research by Medibank says it's during the Christmas period when it hits the hardest.

Three-quarters of Aussies surveyed believe the festive season can be the loneliest time of the year, with nearly half saying they've been personally affected by it.

In addition, while just over half of people said they would lean on friends and family for support, 42 per cent do nothing about their symptoms and wait for the feeling to pass.

One in five Aussies said that while they're aware loved ones are struggling with loneliness, they're yet to reach out to provide support. 

Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan said, "Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the festive season is a time when there's an increased emphasis on family and togetherness -- which as a result, can heighten feelings of social isolation for some people."

"The impact of loneliness on health is becoming more recognised, and it's important we as a community acknowledge this and support one another -- particularly at this time of year."

Two-thirds of Aussies believe loneliness is a growing issue in Australia, with 78 per cent calling for more awareness of the problem.

Despite common belief that the elderly are most at risk, young Aussies were found to be worst affected, with 83 per cent of 18-24 year olds experiencing times of loneliness, compared with just 51 per cent of 65-74 year olds.

The research found nearly half of all Aussies felt loneliness peaked when they were in poor health, and that loneliness was also likely to contribute to or worsen existing physical and mental health

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