The role community relationships play in fostering resilience

Feb 21, 2023 | Blog

By Claire Fisher, Senior Research and Project Officer, Relationships Australia 

At Relationships Australia, we have been championing the importance of community relationships for many years. Evaluations of our Neighbours Every Day campaign demonstrate that those who have been involved in the campaign experience improvements to their mental health, sustained reductions in loneliness and improved wellbeing, even during times of crisis.

More recently, Relationships Australia presented the findings of Relationship Indicators 2022 – which provided further proof that respectful, supportive, and reliable relationships are key to our wellbeing. Relationships Indicators is the only national survey of the state of relationships in Australia – meaning the results can be applied to the whole population.

Relationship Indicators 2022 outlined the role group and community-based relationships play in our wellbeing. For example:

  • People who had more satisfying relationships with their friends and family had better wellbeing than those in less satisfying relationships.
  • Loneliness negatively affected relationship satisfaction and personal wellbeing. People who were lonely were less satisfied with their relationships and were less likely to agree that they were satisfied with life.
  • Over 3.1 million (or 15.5%) Australians were involved in a community group. Those who were part of a community group were more satisfied with life.
  • People who identified their family, friendship circles, neighbours, community, religious and sporting groups had higher subjective wellbeing than the general population.

The strength of people’s identification with these groups also influenced their wellbeing. People who thought of themselves as part of the group or felt that the group was part of their identity had higher wellbeing than those who did not. However, trusting the thoughts and opinions of the group was not found to be important for wellbeing. This suggests that having a sense of belonging within a group was integral to wellbeing, however maintaining one’s own opinions is important.

The findings from Relationship Indicators 2022 were both concerning and promising. It was worrying to see the effect issues such as the rising cost of living and the pandemic have had on the community, especially for loneliness and mental ill-health. Yet research shows that community relationships play a big role in addressing these concerns. Although 1 in 3 Australians said the pandemic or cost-of-living was affecting their relationships, we also found that older Australians, especially those who were retired and had more time to connect with their community, were less likely to feel these pressures. Relationship Indicators made a strong case for the role relationships play in supporting resilience and wellbeing in the face of uncertainty and external pressures.

So, what about those of us wanting to find a way to connect and reap these benefits? Neighbours Every Day provides simple and practical tools to help you make new connections with your community, no matter your time limits. With Neighbour Day just around the corner, why not explore our new resources and get inspired. You never know, a new friend might be just around the corner.

Relationship Indicators is a national survey of the state of relationships in Australia, conducted by Relationships Australia. These findings inform our efforts to support all Australians to achieve positive and respectful relationships. If you would like to find out more, please visit our Relationship Indicators website.