Relationships to others
It seems obvious that the relationships we have with people in our life have an impact on our wellbeing and we can see this in the data. For example, being married or having a long-term partner is the third most significant factor affecting our subjective wellbeing, after employment and health. And when we’re unemployed our partner’s wellbeing also declines.
Our work on this topic focusses on how our relationships with others are affected by:
- loneliness and social isolation
- places and community
- culture, arts and sport
- education and learning.
We want to know what works when it comes to creating policy or programmes that are positive for our connections with neighbours, friends, family and others?
Having close relationships can help to overcome challenges in people’s lives: having someone to rely on, both family and friends, can mitigate the effects of negative experiences, such as unemployment, retirement, illness, bereavement and other major changes in our lives.
More informal relationships like talking to neighbours and knowing people from different groups matter too. They affect our feelings of safety, anxiety, social trust and other forms of social capital that support how we live well together and make our communities resilient.
For families, relationships and social bonding can be enhanced by learning opportunities for individuals as well as taking part in outdoor recreational activities.
For young people, social networking websites and apps can help to facilitate supportive relationships within a community of interest.
Marginalised groups can benefit from sport and music projects, particularly those that promote relationships with other people.
Neighbours can also provide a source of practical help, routine advice and emotional support. Group sessions for people in the community offer opportunities to learn, build relationships, engage in meaningful exchange, share heritage and culture.
However, relationships can also be a cause of negative wellbeing. Social networking sites that don’t uphold positive values and affect participation in other activities, can have negative impacts on wellbeing. In addition, too much bonding and ‘active neighbourliness’ can lead to self-segregation, if people feel their privacy is breached.
Interventions that focus on helping people to form new relationships or improve their current ones have mixed results. Mixing different groups in a community does not necessarily lead to building of relationships. Tolerance may be increased by higher visibility of other groups within society, but the result of mixing may be limited to sharing spaces, not building networks.