Remember the days when your parents or grandparents used to pop over to the neighbour’s house to borrow a cup of sugar or some eggs? Well perhaps they were onto something.
New research suggests that people who are in contact with their neighbours are happier and healthier than those who keep to themselves.
Loneliness is seen today as a major health issue. Last year, the Australian Psychological Society collaborated with Swinburne University on a study of loneliness in Australia. The study found that one in four Australians feel lonely, and that this can lead to physical and mental health issues, including heart disease and depression.
Relationships Australia, a leading provider of relationship support services for individuals, families and communities in Australia, says awareness of social isolation and loneliness has increased in recent years, partly due to the digital age in which we all live today. They say local neighbourhoods have the potential to counter loneliness and therefore improve health and wellbeing.
Dr Grant Blashki, lead clinical advisor at Beyond Blue, says, “Those little smiles, g’day in the street, can just make a huge difference. It’s such a small thing but can change the whole culture of a region.”
Recent bushfires in Australia have shown how Aussies pull together in times of need. But what about those everyday neighbourly gestures like bringing in the bin for a neighbour or checking in on the elderly lady or single parent next door? These simple gestures are often forgotten about.
“We live in a very fast society. I think many of us spend our time on screens and on our phones, so are closed off from our neighbours,” says Dr Blashki.
When neighbours look out for each other, chances of loneliness are significantly reduced because it creates a sense of connection.
Have you ever travelled overseas to some third world countries and wondered why the people seem so happy and yet they have so little? It is because they are part of a strong community.
Looking to move? Consider the community you are moving to
If you are thinking about moving, pay close attention to the neighbourhood you are planning to move to. Read the copy in the marketing to see how it describes the community and take a wander around the neighbourhood to observe this for yourself. Suburbs with parks , playgrounds and local shopping villages encourage connection with others.
When you move in, introduce yourself to your neighbours and exchange numbers in case of emergency. You don’t need to be best friends with your neighbours or live in each other’s pockets. But friendliness and a sense of connection will go a long way to maintaining your health and wellbeing.