Social Isolation

Engaging with consumers is often full of surprises. Sometimes the problem isn’t what you think it is. Which means the solution isn’t what you think it is either.

This is what makes Social listening such a valuable tool for enabling effective human centred design. It goes beyond the limitations of traditional surveying methodology and lets people set the agenda for the conversation.

In 2018 Gippsland Primary Health Network (PHN) commissioned Health Issues Centre to help it understand why older people were underrepresented at clinical appointments when they were overrepresented in the population at large.

Our team surveyed local people about what would make the biggest difference to their overall health. We focused on positive interventions like cancer screening and being part of the community.

The number one thing people said would make the most difference to their health – exercise and good nutrition – made perfect sense. But it didn’t shed any light on why people weren’t going to the doctor.

We could see that a survey wasn’t going to give us the answers we were looking for so we deployed our Social Listening methodology.

Immediately the conversation became richer, deeper and more enlightening. People began to talk about things like:

  • I don’t walk the dog any more
  • I can’t get the lids off jam jars
  • I can’t remember where I parked my car
  • Most of my social events are my friends’ funerals
  • People talk to me like I’m an idiot or talk down to me
  • I feel invisible

We asked, does your doctor help? People responded that they felt patronised, rushed and dismissed by their doctor and were told it was all just part of getting old.

As everyday encounters became more painful or uncomfortable, people began to withdraw. This led to isolation and loneliness, impacts on mental and physical health and general decline.

Our research led us to a fresh understanding of what isolation and loneliness in older Australians is all about. It didn’t happen to people – they chose it. Withdrawing initially seemed preferable to the alternative of continuing to have hurtful interactions with people. But over time it led to longer term consequences that were ultimately very damaging to people’s health, wellbeing and longevity. 

This led to a new perspective on what the underlying issue preventing older people from going to the doctor in Gippsland PHN was.

Download the full report here.

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This project demonstrates how having clarity over what the problem really is can liberate your organisation to carry out truly human centred design.

Find out more about how our Social Listening Platform can help change the conversation and provide more valuable consumer insights to support your project/ organisational needs.

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