Lockdown made New Zealanders lonelier than ever, a new study has found, and it's urging the Government to step up and help Kiwis.
Research from the Helen Clark Foundation found 3.5 percent of New Zealanders felt lonely most or all of the time before lockdown. But at alert level 4, that jumped to 10.6 percent. Young Kiwis suffered the most, with a whopping 20.8 percent being affected.
"You've left school, you're in your first job or first relationship, living away from your parents for the first time, and those can all be big triggers for loneliness," the study's author Holly Walker says.
And social media expert Bodo Lang says although online platforms are designed to connect people, it could be the thing that's keeping everyone apart.
"The question is what are we connected to, and we're really connected to devices."
Many people feel married to the machine, and Lang says it's fuelling the 'fear of missing out', or FOMO.
"I think that FOMO element is really dangerous, because it can really be magnified basically through social media and by looking at other people's activities."
The report also found the unemployed or those surviving on a low income are among the loneliest.
"If you don't have a sufficient income, it's really hard to afford to do things to alleviate loneliness," Walker says.
The study makes 12 recommendations to combat loneliness, including a universal guaranteed minimum income and more investment in community spaces and mental health services.
New Zealander Cate Owen found lockdown tough.
"I wasn't getting the right kind of sleep, I was struggling with my exercise routine and it just kind of built up, where the anxiety was just popping out of me," she says.
She lives alone, and although she was well-connected online, it wasn't enough.
"I think there's so much from being in someone's physical space, getting a vibe off them, reading their body language, seeing their smiles, sharing a meal together. There's warmth there that doesn't exist digitally."
The report's anti-loneliness recommendations would be welcome moves for Kiwis like Owen.