EARLIER THIS year, a new study found that young Australians are chronically lonely. Despite the fact we are more connected than ever, 36 per cent of Australian adults admit they are currently experiencing loneliness at least once a week. And while there has been much reporting around how this impacts older generations (and it certainly does), it’s those aged between 18 and 24 feeling it the most—two out of five to be exact. Followed by those aged between 45-54 and 25-44. Loneliness is, in short, a silent epidemic.
This worrying trend has been echoed around the world, with the WHO currently estimating that at least 1 in four adults experience social isolation and loneliness, increasing our risk of anxiety, depression, suicide, dementia/cognitive decline and even cardiovascular disease and stroke. Leading experts argue that the health implications of loneliness can be as detrimental to our health as smoking—yet, the stigma stops a lot of us from admitting it or reaching out for help.
If you’re also one of the rising cohorts of non-drinkers or find yourself at a point in your life where you’re lifestyle choices are no longer aligning with those around you —such as having families, moving out or into cities, working odd hours or as a solo business owner—Australian culture makes it very difficult to make new friends. The most popular app for making new pals is Bumble. Its Bumble for Friends feature has been steadily growing, by taking the methodologies many of us are familiar with for dating, and applying those to making new besties. But outside of the apps, just like the common complaint around dating, many young people are still having trouble making connections IRL.
One Californian startup is leading the charge on targeting the issue, via what it calls an ‘after-school club’ for adults. Groundfloor is a social club focused on friendship, and not your typical members-only club. Instead of exclusivity, its members are strictly here for company. For around $300 a month, members of its three San Francisco outposts and an incoming Los Angeles one, are offered the usual member’s club amenities, such as co-working spaces and wellness offerings, but with a twist: Groundfloor also encourages socialising. This might include special interest-focused meetups, workshops, karaoke nights and more. By starting the membership application process with more personal questions, instead of ‘What do you do for a living?’ the club aims to try to find individuals seeking long-lasting relationships, and those who recognise the importance of building community—and the effort that takes.
Australia has had a wonky love affair with members clubs in the past. However, with new ones arriving from abroad, like Soho House now making their way down under, and some of the more high-end co-working spaces like The Commons now using after-work social events as ways to uplift its members and break the ice that comes with work-focused environments, perhaps this new model of social clubs for socialising-sake will take off? Judging by all the worrying statistics, Australian adults desperately need it.