A sense of belonging to local communities, homes and the workplace is correlated with better physical and mental health according to the findings of a new nationwide study by Get Living.
A new study of over 10,000 people nationwide has found that a sense of belonging to the places in which you live is an important factor in overall wellbeing, highlighting that 63% of British people feel that they belong in their local community, at home and in the workplace, despite living in an increasingly digital world.
This sense of belonging has been shown to have an impact on people’s physical and mental health, with 65% of those who rated their physical and mental health as good having a high sense of belonging.
The research from build-to-rent operator, Get Living, found that after safety, price and location, it was a sense of community that influenced where people choose to live.
Rick de Blaby, Chief Executive Officer at Get Living, commented: “In the modern world, it’s easy to forget just how important it is to have in-person connections and to feel a sense of belonging to a physical place.
“This research shines a light on the crucial role that different amenities, social events and interactions play in cultivating and nurturing connections, in creating a real sense of community.
“It is positive that nearly two-thirds of British people feel a connection and sense of belonging in their homes, neighbourhoods and workplaces, particularly as we know the impact this can have on people’s wellbeing. These findings make it clear that creating and managing places demands an even greater focus on people and togetherness, which is what we, at Get Living, live and breathe.”
A place to call home
The research showed that people living in places designed to cultivate connections generally have a higher feeling of togetherness, with those living in build-to-rent housing or student accommodation most likely to report a sense of belonging in their local community (61% and 60% respectively), compared to traditional private rental accommodation (52%).
Of those that own a home, 58% said that they felt a sense of belonging, indicating that belonging is not necessarily driven by a sense of permanence.
Location also plays a role. 38% of Londoners strongly feel they belong in their local community, higher than any other UK region. London is followed by Northern Ireland (33%), the Northeast (30%) and the Northwest (29%).
The next evolution of retail is local
The retail narrative has been dominated by the online vs offline debate, but one of the impacts of the Covid pandemic has been a greater appreciation of local retail.
Local shops, restaurants and cafes are all revealed to be central to people’s sense of belonging, underlining the importance of our local high streets and town centres.
Shopping and eating locally is important for 59% of people, while 50% of people find local shops create a sense of belonging in their immediate neighbourhood.
In their wider communities, people are most likely to say their high street or town centre (45%) and social spaces like restaurants, cafes, bars, and cultural spaces (42%) create a sense of togetherness in their wider community.
When choosing a place to live, 45% of Brits said location and proximity to amenities such as shops, restaurants, cultural places, and leisure facilities are a top priority.
Human interaction matters
Despite the rise and rise of social media and online messaging apps, the research found that even small human interactions have a significant impact on people’s feelings of belonging.
Whether it’s chatting over a garden fence, in communal lobbies or lifts or on the street, these small gestures drive a feeling of togetherness and connection to a local area, with 48% reporting that engaging in conversation with neighbours helps create a sense of belonging.
The power of a chance encounter and friendly conversation cannot be underestimated for a mood boost.
Dr Nick Prior, a co-founder of Minderful, commented: “Belonging dissolves the barriers of isolation and empowers individuals to share their problems, alleviating stress and promoting overall well-being.”
De Blaby concluded: “It’s hugely encouraging to see that people living in built-to-rent reported the highest sense of belonging in their communities. As neighbourhood creators, our aim is to create the stage, but it's people that make a place. Everyone’s experience of what belonging means to them is different, but it all speaks to the visceral human need for connections and security.”