MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (18:39:22):
My adjournment matter today is for the Minister for Mental Health, Mr Foley, and it is about loneliness. I congratulate the government on the community consultation in putting together the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Mental Health. I have certainly seen some of the submissions from organisations in my community. But in regards to loneliness, aloneness is one thing—being on your own. Spending a lot of time as an MP and speaking to lots of people, sometimes it feels really good just to be alone. But loneliness is the opposite. Loneliness is where there is just a yawning lack of anything in your life, which could be human companionship, and it opens up a very deep and dark black hole inside us. In fact loneliness is an extraordinary health risk. It is linked to increased mental health issues. We know that loneliness is a precursor to a number of mental health issues and also to chronic health issues. Being lonely has the same health implications for heart disease as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, so this is an incredibly important health issue as well as a societal one. We know people who are lonely are more likely to go to the GP. They are more likely to attend emergency departments. They are more likely to call ambulances. They are more likely to die earlier. They are more likely to get diabetes. In the last study that was done by Lifeline, it was found that 82 per cent of us had experienced loneliness in our lives. We talk about social isolation in this chamber from time to time, and I think it is something that is really important. I for one have seen it in the end-of-life choices inquiry and in the retirement housing sector inquiry—in many inquiries in looking at how we can deal with social isolation. The London School of Economics found that loneliness costs the community somewhere between $3000 and $11 000 per person per year, let alone deaths. In moving forward with this really important royal commission, the action that I am seeking is that the government ensure that loneliness is part of the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Mental Health.