People enjoy constructive and supportive relationships with their families, whānau, communities, iwi and friends. 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 and the benefits these relationships can bring to the individual, as well as to society.
It includes relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, as well as connections people make through paid work, sport and other leisure activities, or through voluntary work or community service.
These relationships and connections can be a source of enjoyment and support. They help people to feel they belong and have a part to play in society. People who feel socially connected also contribute towards building communities and society. They help to create what is sometimes called “social capital”, the networks that help society to function effectively. There are proven links between social connectedness and the performance of the economy, and positive outcomes for individual health and wellbeing.
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 social networks that help improve their lives.
Six headline indicators are used to measure social connectedness in New Zealand. These are: telephone and internet access in the household; contact with family and friends; contact between young people and their parents; trust in others; loneliness; and voluntary work.
Both the telephone and the internet increase people’s ability to keep in touch with family and friends, to work, or to conduct their business from home. The internet, in particular, is becoming an increasingly important means of accessing information and applying for services, as well as a popular choice for making bookings for entertainment and travel. Through social media on the internet, social networks can be expanded considerably. However, new communications technology can also be used for anti-social purposes.
For most people, social networks centre on family and friends. The second indicator is the proportion of people aged 15 and over who felt that the amount of contact they have with family and friends who don’t live with them is “about right”.
The third indicator is also about contact with family: the proportion of young people of secondary school age who report getting enough time with their parents most of the time.
Trust in others, the fourth 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.
The fifth 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 is about voluntary work undertaken for organisations or groups. Volunteering can help build networks of trust and reciprocity that sustain people through difficult times and reinforce social cohesion.
In general, the Social Connectedness domain outcomes have remained stable in terms of recent-change and medium-term-change.
The exception is internet access, where there has been a large improvement in the proportion of households with access between 2001 and 2013. However, Māori and Pacific peoples have much lower rates than other groups.
The proportion of people who said the amount of contact they have with family and friends is “about right” remains steady when looking at recent-change and medium-term-change, as does the amount of contact between young people and their parents. However, in 2007 and 2012, female students were more likely than males to say they didn’t get enough time with their mum and/or dad.
In 2014, a small proportion of people reported feeling lonely, particularly those in younger age groups, those in sole-parent families, and those in lower socio-economic groups
The majority of people believed that most people can be trusted in 2014, though Māori, Pacific peoples, unemployed, and people in lower socio-economic groups had lower levels of trust than other groups.
The proportion of people doing voluntary work is stable in regard to both recent-change and medium-term-change, with New Zealand’s proportion of volunteers being the highest of all the OECD countries.