The long awaited release of the first analysis of the ONS’s wellbeing data has confirmed what we have regularly highlighted – that ‘the amount and quality of social connections with people around us are an essential part of our wellbeing. The importance of relationships for an individual’s wellbeing as well as for society more generally cannot be overlooked when making an assessment of the nation’s wellbeing’.
The detailed picture that is emerging about how we feel in the UK today will unfold over the coming months through further statistical releases. The story is fascinating, showing for example that not are we only happiest in our youth and old age, but that the ‘U’ shaped distribution of wellbeing is repeated when we look at anxiety: we are also at our most anxious in middle age. Contradicting commonly held beliefs that being young and old are the most miserable points in our lives. Our recent work on ageing argues that moving into our third age should be seen as a time of potential and opportunity, not of inevitable limitation.
The finding that how comfortable we feel with our personal relationships is critical to overall quality of life has implications for the next stage of our national wellbeing debate, what it is we need to do to act on this new information? How do we use our better knowledge to reshape what state and society do to support people to thrive?
It’s great to know that we have been right in stressing the importance of social relationships. The ONS report also discusses the importance of our feeling of belonging in the neighbourhoods we call home in determining wellbeing.
We will continue to search for practical ways of boosting local wellbeing, through our work on how to measure wellbeing and resilience, socially sustainable communities and new ways to boost the resilience of those who need this most.
Our newest venture Social Life is focusing on how we take care of the social needs of local communities, by working with developers, architects, planners, housing providers, local authorities and communities, to see how, in spite of the scarcity of state resources and economic uncertainty, we can help communities thrive.