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The loneliness epidemic

In this talk, epidemiologist and population behavioural scientist Melody Ding takes us through the trends and predictors of loneliness and why it’s a public health issue.

It’s common and natural to feel lonely at times in life. But when loneliness is experienced for a prolonged period, its impacts are severe, with links to chronic illness and death.  

How widespread is loneliness across the world? Are there certain demographics or countries that are ‘lonelier’ than others?  

Associate Professor Melody Ding, based at Charles Perkins Centre, has recently led research that examines loneliness and its effects.  

In this Sydney Ideas talk, Melody unpacks the population data to reveal fascinating insights about our culture and systems in society – highlighting what’s working (or not) and what are the gaps to address.  

Melody is then joined by public health researcher Daniel Surkalim and urbanism expert Dr Jennifer Kent in a conversation hosted by Professor Stephen Simpson, Academic Director of Charles Perkins Centre.

This event was held on 27 July 2023 at the University of Sydney.

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The speakers

Associate Professor Melody Ding

Associate Professor Melody Ding, Sydney School of Public Health

Melody is an epidemiologist and population behavioural scientist. Melody works at the intersection of physical activity, epidemiology and chronic disease prevention. 

Melody is passionate about and committed to improving population health through epidemiological research and behavioural change. Having published around 200 journal articles, including in top-ranked journals such as the Lancet, BMJ, Nature Climate Change, and PLOS Medicine. Many of Melody's studies have contributed to informing the public about healthy living through wide media coverage around the world. And she is currently the co-editor in Chief of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

Daniel Surkalim

Daniel Surkalim, Prevention Research Collaboration

Daniel is a research officer for the University of Sydney (Prevention Research Collaboration) and a consultant for the World Health Organization. 

His research looks at a behavioural epidemiological approach to loneliness across the lifespan, aiming to establish it as the public health epidemic that it is. His work aims to serve as a nexus between public health and psychology, and hopefully bring attention to what has been an underserved area of health.

Jennifer Kent

Dr Jennifer Kent, Urbanism Research Lead

Jennifer is a Senior Research Fellow and Urbanism Research Lead at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning. Jennifer’s research interests are at the intersections of urban planning, transport and human health.

Issues examined to date include parenting and private car use, companion animals and transport, the links between higher density living and loneliness, and the interpretation of health evidence into urban planning and transport policy.

Professor Stephen Simpson

Host: Professor Stephen Simpson AC, Charles Perkins Centre

Stephen is Academic Director of Charles Perkins Centre, and a Professor in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, and Executive Director of Obesity Australia.

Header image: credit Rob Currans on Unsplash

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