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Plea for help as poverty, loneliness affect millions of Australians at Christmas

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While Christmas is marketed as a time of joy, research released today indicates almost a third of Australians find the holiday to be the most stressful time of year, with more than three million expected to contact a charity for help with basic necessities such as food and paying bills over the festive season.

The research, commissioned through Roy Morgan as part of The Salvation Army Christmas Appeal, is based on a survey of 1042 respondents, representing 19,455,000 Australians.

The financial burden the Christmas places on the community is widely felt, and the findings indicate six million or about a quarter of the population feel obliged to spend more than they can afford.

The emotional burden also takes a significant toll. According to the survey, social isolation is expected to affect two million people during Christmas, with one in four Australian adults expected to experience anxiety and three million to suffer depression.

Almost 70 per cent of respondents reported time with family and friends to be their favourite memory from last Christmas, highlighting the need for those without regular contact with others to reach out over the festive season as a safeguard against mental health issues.

The Salvation Army’s Major Bruce Harmer said the results of the survey were concerning, and presented “a real picture of poverty in Australia worse than previously thought”.

“Hardship and loneliness hits hardest during the Christmas period. Across the country there are literally millions of Australians needing support,” he said.

“Typically, more than 300,000 people turn to The Salvation Army for support at this time of year.

“This increased need will see more people seeking our help this Christmas.”

Major Harmer urged the public to get into the spirit of giving and help the charity provide food, gifts and other vital services to those in need.

“We distribute over 100,000 meals and distribute more than half a million toys and gifts for Aussies in need at Christmas. So please, donate to The Salvation Army and help us give hope where it’s needed most,” he said.

The Salvation Army supports hundreds of thousands of Australians every year, providing a host of vital social services including:

Christmas hampers, food and gifts.
Christmas luncheons.
Family welfare assistance.
Refuge for women and children in crisis.
Homeless shelters.
Youth drop-in centres and support programs.
Emergency and disaster relief.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Employment services and training programs.
Chaplaincy support.
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