People enjoy constructive relationships with others in their families, whānau, communities, iwi and workplaces. Families support and nurture those in need of care. New Zealand is an inclusive society where people are able to access information and support.
Social connectedness refers to the relationships people have with others.
People are defined by their social roles, whether as partners, parents, children, friends, caregivers, teammates, staff or employers, or a myriad of other roles. Relationships give people support, happiness, contentment and a sense they belong and have a role to play in society.107 They also mean people have support networks in place they can call on for help during hard times.
Social connectedness also refers to people joining together to achieve shared goals that benefit each other and society as a whole – this may range from working together as part of a business to contributing to their communities through voluntary groups.
One of the most important aspects of social connectedness is the relationship people have with a spouse or a partner. Studies have consistently found having a partner contributes to a person’s reported level of wellbeing.108
Several studies have demonstrated links between social connectedness and the performance of the economy and positive outcomes for individual health and wellbeing.109
Social connectedness is fostered when family relationships are positive, and when people have the skills and opportunities to make friends and to interact constructively with others. Good health, employment, and feeling safe and secure all increase people’s chances of developing positive relationships.
Five indicators are used to measure New Zealand’s levels of social connectedness. These are: telephone and internet access in the home, regular contact with family/friends, trust in others, the proportion of the population experiencing loneliness and contact between young people and their parents.
Together, the five indicators measure the opportunities for and the actual levels of connection between people, both within their immediate social groups and within the wider community. Access to the internet is significant. It improves people’s ability to access information and, as a consequence, it provides more opportunities for people to participate in society. Both the telephone and the internet enable people to keep in touch without seeing each other face to face. This means social connectedness can be maintained when people are in different cities or even in different countries. It also means new social networks can be opened up across geographical boundaries between people who may never have met.
For most people, social networks centre on family and friends. The second indicator measures the proportion of people who keep in touch with family and friends by having them over for a meal at least once a month.
Trust in others, the third indicator, measures the extent to which people expect others to act fairly and honestly towards them. High levels of trust enhance wellbeing by facilitating co-operative behaviour among people who otherwise do not know each other. Trust also enhances people’s ability to develop positive relationships with others.
The fourth indicator measures levels of loneliness. Feelings of isolation and loneliness undermine overall wellbeing and can be detrimental to people’s physical and emotional health, resulting in stress, anxiety or depression.
The final indicator, the proportion of young people who report getting enough time each week with their parents, is a measure of the extent to which people in need of care and nurturing receive that support.