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Shy Kiwis missing community connection

Shy Kiwis missing community connection

Almost 40% of Kiwis only meet with others socially once a month or less - according to surprising results from the 2015 Sovereign Wellbeing Index - but the good news is it doesn’t take much to get out of our shells and make a big difference to wellbeing.

The Index, which investigates how well New Zealanders are functioning on a personal and social level, has revealed that not only is our social interaction lacking, but we aren’t close to people in our community and feel unappreciated by those we are close to.

Connecting with those around us has been identified as a critical factor in our wellbeing, especially impacting our resilience during difficult times in life.

“The Sovereign Wellbeing Index shows just how well New Zealanders measure up when it comes to social connections and community. We came last when compared to 29 European countries that deployed the same survey, which is not only a disappointing result but, when compared to the first Sovereign Wellbeing Index in 2013, it shows no improvement,” says Grant Schofield professor of public health at AUT University, who led the research.

“Having meaningful relationships and investing time in them is important for us and those around us. We can also increase our wellbeing and resilience by volunteering time, getting involved in groups and, simply, getting to know those around us. Having a support network in place when things go wrong helps us to bounce back quicker.”

The research also uncovered that just 4% of New Zealanders strongly agree they feel close to people in their local area. Schofield believes this is a symptom of our sprawling cities – especially Auckland, which is designed around cars not people.

“Community design has a role to play in fostering connections and I don’t believe we are seeing the benefit of this in New Zealand. It is not just about living closer to each other, but living closer to our lives – work, play and home are often on opposite sides of the city and the commute is killing our neighbourly interaction and our community integration,” he says.

As a leading New Zealand life insurer, Sovereign believes it has a key role to play in helping New Zealanders improve their health and wellbeing.

“This research gives us insights into how we – as individuals, communities, leaders and the nation as a whole – can make New Zealand an even better and happier place to live. At Sovereign, we’re using the results to further enhance our community and wellbeing programmes so that staff have opportunities to connect with each other, volunteer their time and build on their strength,” says Sovereign CEO Symon Brewis-Weston.

“The cost of poor wellbeing is immense to our country - more than 30% of Sovereign’s disability income claims are due to mental illness, so imagine the cost implications to the country. We all have to work to improve our connections with each other - it could start with something as simple as saying hello to your neighbour,” says Brewis-Weston.

For a full version of the Sovereign Wellbeing Index visit: mywellbeing.co.nz

ENDS


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