Loneliness is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That is the finding of a Brigham Young University study where researchers also found social isolation had a greater health risk than obesity.
Social isolation or loneliness is defined as having few social contacts which can be the outcome of living alone. While risk factors for lung cancer and obesity are obvious the signs of loneliness can be harder to find. Our own Chief Medical and Chief Public Health Officer Professor Paddy Philips has taken note of this and is also concerned about rising levels of social isolation. In his last Public Health Report, it was noted that “social isolation and exclusion are associated with increased rates of premature death and poorer chances of survival after a heart attack”. That is why this year’s AdMental, which forms part of Public Health Week, is focusing on the most susceptible to loneliness – older South Australians.
AdMental is in its third year and is an event that asks advertising creatives to create an online viral video with a mental health and wellbeing message. This is an annual Don Dunstan Foundation event, which partners with Adelaide Advertising and Design Club (AADC), SA Health’s Office of Public Health and the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia. Each year, this team works on a brief that targets a specific mental health message with previous years covering mental illness and workplace wellbeing.
To help the team uncover the issues surrounding loneliness in older people they called on the Office for Ageing Well.
“Research has highlighted that 20 per cent of older people in Australia are socially isolated, and some are even calling it a public health crisis with an increasing number of people at risk of depression, sickness and even early death because of their lack of companionship,” says Jeanette Walters, Director Intergovernment Relations and Ageing.
“Factors such as more people living alone and rising family breakdowns along with decreasing neighbourhood connections and community gatherings contribute to this social isolation.
“We are pleased AdMental is asking competitors to pitch their ideas to combat loneliness in our older population. It is recognition that our wellbeing over our lifetime is greatly influenced by our mental state particularly in the face of the many changes – physical, financial, and social – as we age.”
A 2017 AdMental entry from Black Sheep Advertising
Based on the ABC TV series Gruen Transfer, AdMental asks two creative teams to answer the brief and on the night deliver an online viral video no longer than a minute. These advertisements are then judged by a panel of leaders in the advertising industry followed by a panel discussion about mental health and wellbeing.
James Rickard is the President of AADC and this year worked with the AdMental team to expand the event to give emerging creatives a chance to make their first advertisement.
“The AADC is committed to education and this event provides that platform as senior industry figures will mentor the students throughout the creative and production process,” Rickard explains. “We will also be arranging tours of various production facilities to further broaden their education. So, the students learn about the process and we all learn more about mental health as the event is a great catalyst for discussion and raising awareness.” While AdMental is a fun competition it also fills a gap in the health promotions space.
“Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of funding for public health messaging,” Rickard says. “It is not a category that can demonstrate an immediate return on investment and in a world ruled by efficiency metrics, it is too easy to dismiss.
“Advertising is considered a luxury when it should be a fundamental part of the strategic plan. There is also a lack of understanding the role advertising can and should play. There is no quick fix.
“How we portray or relate to people living with mental health issues in all categories of advertising, will influence public attitudes and behaviour. Advertising can occasionally set trends, but often it reflects them.”
AdMental Bonython Hall
Wednesday, April 17, 6.30pm
Sponsored by the Don Dunstan Foundation