Aked, J., Marks, N., Cordon, C., & Thompson, S. (2008)
The evidence emerging from the Foresight Challenge Reports indicates that social relationships are critical for promoting well-being and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health. This seems to be the case for people across all ages.
This resource outlines the following points relating to the importance of connection:
Friendship is one of the highest positive correlations with self-rated happiness.
People with stronger social relationships have a 50% increased likelihood of survival from conditions such as coronary vascular disease and cancer.
The magnitude of having good social relationships is comparable with quitting smoking, and it exceeds many well-known risk factors for mortality (e.g. obesity, physical inactivity).
The most significant difference between those with mental ill health and those without is social participation.
Holly Walker at the Helen Clark Foundation looked at loneliness in NZ, and suggested the following elements (some of which relate to aspects of “connection”) be incorporated into a policy response:
Help communities do their magic
Create friendly streets and neighbourhoods
Prioritise those already lonely
Invest in frontline mental health services.
(2018, January 4). Blue Zones
From research in the healthiest and happiest places in the world, here are some habits to take up.
Aminzadeh, K. (2012)
The aim of this research is to assess the relationship between neighbourhood social capital and adolescent subjective wellbeing in New Zealand, and its interaction with adolescents’ socioeconomic status.
Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2014)
Evidence indicates that loneliness heightens sensitivity to social threats and motivates the renewal of social connections, but it can also impair executive functioning, sleep, and mental and physical well-being. Together, these effects contribute to higher rates of morbidity and mortality in lonely older adults.
(2019, September 25). Blue Zones
While heart health is greatly impacted by your lifestyle, there more factors, maybe even “softer” factors, that also predict heart disease. This post discusses the Roseto effect, which suggests that positive social factors may reduce the incidence of heart disease.
Markman, A. (2018)
This post discusses the research by Mehle et al., 2010 and Milek et al., 2018. The author concludes that “spending time around other people is a benefit. Even ordinary interactions may reinforce your bond to other people, which can make you happier and more satisfied with your life.”
Fratiglioni, L., Paillard-Borg, S., & Winblad, B. (2004)
This review systematically analyses the published longitudinal studies exploring the effect of social network, physical leisure, and non-physical activity on cognition and dementia and then summarises from the current evidence that an active and socially integrated lifestyle in late life protects against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Harris, M. A., & Orth, U. (2020)
The findings of this study suggest that the link between people’s social relationships and their level of self-esteem is truly reciprocal in all developmental stages across the life span, reflecting a positive feedback loop between the constructs.
Holt-Lunstad, J. (2018)
Social relationships are adaptive and crucial for survival. This review presents existing evidence indicating that our social connections to others have powerful influences on health and longevity and that lacking social connection qualifies as a risk factor for premature mortality.
(2019, October 29). Blue Zones
There is truth to the maxim that a great conversationalist is a good listener. When we’re in the presence of an active listener, we feel heard, valued, and attended to.
Kelly, M. E., Duff, H., Kelly, S., McHugh Power, J. E., Brennan, S., Lawlor, B. A., & Loughrey, D. G. (2017)
The results of this review support prior conclusions that there is an association between social relationships and cognitive function but the exact nature of this association remains unclear. Implications of the findings are discussed and suggestions for future research provided.
Mackay, L., Egli, V., Booker, L.-J., & Prendergast, K. (2019. Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 14(2), 230–244
A survey was undertaken with 10,012 adults throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand, to assess individual wellbeing and participation in the Five Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Give, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Be Active). Wellbeing was assessed with the Flourishing Scale.
Held, M. L., & Lee, S. (2020). Community Mental Health Journal, 56(2), 348–354
Volunteering has been found to be a significant predictor of improved health among the general population. Yet, little is known about the relationship between volunteering and perceived general health among individuals with serious mental illness. This study examined the extent to which volunteering is associated with perceived general health of individuals with serious mental illness. Study findings indicate that individuals who engage in volunteering are more likely to report better health status when compared to those who do not engage in volunteering.
Jebb, A. T., Morrison, M., Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2020). Psychological Science, 095679761989882
Using representative cross-sections from 166 nations (more than 1.7 million respondents), differences in three measures of subjective wellbeing over the life span were examined. Globally, and in the individual regions of the world, it was found that only very small differences in life satisfaction and negative affect. By contrast, decreases in positive affect were larger.
Lee, C. H., & Sibley, C. G. (2019). Sleep Health, 5(6), 606–614
This study identified the prevalence of short and long sleep duration and examine the relationship between sleep duration and psychological well-being among New Zealand adults. Participants were asked “during the past month, on average, how many hours of actual sleep did you get per night?”. Most New Zealanders reported having optimal sleep duration, but more than a third reported having short and 4.5% reported long sleep duration.
Social Investment Agency. (2018). Social Investment Agency (SIA)
This working paper is written for analysts, policy advisors and social service providers to introduce the Social Investment Agency’s wellbeing measurement approach.
VanderWeele, T. J. (2019). Journal of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, 1-13
The paper reviews various evidence-based activities that can be easily employed to promote human flourishing. The evidence from numerous randomized trials has now established a number of do-it-yourself activities that can be used to improve various aspects of wellbeing. Moreover, various relational and institutional commitments can be voluntarily pursued which likewise have been shown to have substantial effects on wellbeing.
Keyes, Corey Lee M. (1998). 61(2), 121.
The proposal of five dimensions of social well-being, social integration, social contribution, social coherence, social actualization, and social acceptance, is theoretically substantiated
Bolier, L., Haverman, M., Westerhof, G. J., Riper, H., Smit, F., & Bohlmeijer, E. (2013). BMC Public Health, 13, 119. 9
The results of this meta-analysis show that positive psychology interventions can be effective in the enhancement of subjective well-being and psychological well-being, as well as in helping to reduce depressive symptoms.
This snapshot report summarises key findings from the 2016 Mental Health Monitor and 2016 Health and Lifestyles Survey. Participants reported that the experience of mental distress was common (personally or among people they knew) and that mental distress was more than depression and/or anxiety, and included feeling isolated, overwhelmed by stress and not being able to cope. Awareness of mental distress in self or others was associated with more positive attitudes but participants indicated a reluctance to disclose mental distress in some environments, such as workplaces. Social isolation (also known as loneliness) emerged as an important concern. It was strongly associated with depression, anxiety and other forms of distress, particularly among young people.
This report presents Māori-specific findings from Youth’12, the third national health and wellbeing survey of secondary school students in New Zealand. This is New Zealand’s largest and most comprehensive survey of the health and wellbeing of taitamariki Māori in high schools. Included in the survey is a range of factors that impact on the healthy development of taitamariki Māori, including whānau/family, community, education and social environments. The information presented in this report was provided by 1,701 students who reported Māori ethnicity in 2012 (20% of the entire sample). Also reported are Māori data from the 2001, 2007 and 2012 surveys to identify trends over time.
Durie, M. (2006)
Discusses aspects of Māori wellbeing and how to measure it. Presents a framework for measuring, incorporating 3 levels of wellbeing – individual, whānau, and population. Also discusses a matrix of outcomes, including wellbeing aspects of connection to culture, te reo and land.
Oho mauri: cultural identity, wellbeing, and tāngata whai ora/motuhake : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Māori Studies at Massey University, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Pere, L. M. (2006). (Thesis, Massey University)
This study seeks to understand the experience of mental illness from the perspective of those it affects most- the consumer. In order to test the assumption that mental health depends as much on culture and identity as psycho-biology, Oho Mauri examines the worldviews of 17 Indigenous people – Māori - who have had experience of mental illness.
Russell, L., & Health Promotion Agency. (2018)
Te Oranga Hinengaro uses Māori mental health data from three population surveys to highlight findings about whanaungatanga, and belonging, cultural connectedness and reconnection, and cultural identity for Māori mental wellbeing.
Ataera-Minster, J., & Trowland, H. (2018)
Te Kaveinga presents results from the New Zealand Mental Health Monitor and the Health and Lifestyles Survey related to the mental health and wellbeing of Pacific peoples. Published by the Health Promotion Agency, Te Kaveinga is the first in-depth analysis of Pacific mental health using a nationally representative dataset since Te Rau Hinengaro, New Zealand’s last Mental Health Survey. Overall, the findings show that Pacific adults experience psychological distress at higher levels than non-Pacific adults. The findings also tell us that Pacific peoples report high levels of wellbeing and family wellbeing, and are well connected socially and culturally.
Norriss, H. (2010). 6(4), 46–50.
The author (who is a former MHF member of staff) outlines the view of mental health in New Zealand, and presents an overview of factors that will influence this in the future, arguing that leadership is required to further a nation's positive mental health. Recent analysis is then presented on the concept of ‘flourishing’ in people and communities and how this has explored positive states of experience and functioning. The personal and social benefits that this approach can give as part of a full spectrum approach to mental health are considered. The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand proposes a range of potential activities as examples that could contribute to an increase of flourishing and positive mental health in the wider New Zealand population.
Aked, J., Marks, N., Cordon, C., & Thompson, S. (2008). Connect... take notice... be active... keep learning... give:
The New Economics Foundation is a people-powered think tank. It works to build an economy where people take control. This report documents the evidence base for each of the five ways to wellbeing.
Field, J. (2009). 28(2), 175–191
This paper provides a background analysis of research into the relationship between adult learning and wellbeing. It notes that there is a general paucity of rigorous research that focuses specifically on this topic. Studies covered in the review include both those which examine the effects of adult learning upon factors that are directly relevant to wellbeing (such as self-efficacy, confidence, or the ability to create support networks), and those that address factors that are indirectly associated with wellbeing, such as earnings or employment. It argues that evidence from current research suggests that adult learning appears to have a positive, albeit qualified, effect on attitudes and behaviours that affect people’s mental wellbeing.
Robotham, D., Morgan, K., & James, K. (2011).
Learning and education can affect mental health and wellbeing. A partnership between Northamptonshire Teaching Primary Care Trust and Northamptonshire County Council Adult Learning Service resulted in the Learn 2b programme; a series of community-based adult learning courses for people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
Aknin, L. B., Hamlin, J. K., & Dunn, E. W. (2012). PLoS ONE, 7(6), e39211.
The study finds that before the age of two, toddlers exhibit greater happiness when giving treats to others than receiving treats themselves. Further, children are happier after engaging in ‘costly giving’’ - forfeiting their own resources - than when giving the same treat at no cost.
Dulin, P. L., Gavala, J., Stephens, C., Kostick, M., & McDonald, J. (2012). Aging & Mental Health, 16(5), 617–624.
This study provides evidence that volunteering is related to increased happiness, irrespective of ethnicity. It also provides evidence that the relationship between volunteering and happiness is moderated by economic resources. Older individuals at the low end of the economic spectrum are likely to benefit more from volunteering than those at the high end.
Oades, L. G., Ozturk, C., Hou, H., & Slemp, G. R. (2020). The Journal of Positive Psychology, 0(0), 1-5
Wellbeing literacy is a capability, rather than a positive psychology interventions per se. Wellbeing literacy may provide novel ways to consider two key challenges to positive psychology interventions justified by randomised controlled trials: (1) the problem of generalizability of skills and knowledge claims across contexts; and (2) the problem that gains from interventions are not sustained.
These NZ papers examine the benefits that stem from generosity for givers, receivers and the community as a whole.
- What can we do to promote generosity in New Zealand?
- What do we know about generosity in New Zealand?
- What do we mean by generosity?
Tamasese, T. K., Parsons, T. L., Sullivan, G., & Waldegrave, C. (2010).
This research explored Pacific people’s motivators and barriers to volunteering, and the relationship with their cultural obligations. It includes a series of “projects of pride” to illustrate each Pacific group’s perspective.
Mental Health Foundation. (2011).
This paper reflects on the merits of mindfulness to enhance our wellbeing, looks at mindfulness-based interventions, and the application of mindfulness in our education system.
Mental Health Foundation. (2012).
This paper looks at what mindfulness is, how it works, mindfulness-based interventions, and evidence.
Edmunds, S., Biggs, H., & Goldie, I. (2013).
This UK report explores the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2013, physical activity and wellbeing.
Research New Zealand. (2016).
This report presents the findings of the eighth survey in an on-going monitor of participants in the Green Prescriptions Active Families (Active Families) programme. As in previous years, the survey sought the views of participants about how well the programme worked for their child and family. Contains statistics.
The results suggest that youth who reported higher levels of social connectedness at one point in time would subsequently report higher wellbeing (i.e., life satisfaction, confidence, positive affect, and aspirations).
Metzger, N., Myers, A., & Woodley, A. (2012).
Findings suggest that Know Your Neighbours has contributed to creating stronger, connected and more inclusive neighbourhoods in North Shore communities. This includes increased feelings of safety and community (93 per cent) and a reduction in reported burglaries. Local street and neighbourhood events have contributed to residents’ feelings of wellbeing.
Tay, L., Tan, K., Diener, E., & Gonzalez, E. (2013). Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 5(1), 28–78.
This analysis revealed that social relations are beneficial for health behaviours such as chronic illness self-management and decreased suicidal tendency. The salutary effects of general measures of social relations (e.g. being validated, being cared for, etc.) on health behaviours are weaker, but specific measures of social relations targeting corresponding health behaviours are more predictive. There is growing evidence that social relations are predictive of mortality and cardiovascular disease, and social relations play an equally protective role against both the incidence and progression of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, evidence was mixed for the association between social relations and cancer.
Te Whare Tapa Whā
(2017). Ministry of Health NZ
The four cornerstones (or sides) of Māori health are whānau (family health), tinana (physical health), hinengaro (mental health) and wairua (spiritual health).
Heaton, S. (2015). MAI Journal, 4(2), 164–176
This article explores and expands the discourse around the whare tapa whā which has been depicted in New Zealand curricula and in educational literature as a contemporary Māori model of health, as a Māori perspective of health, as a Māori philosophy of hauora and as a four-sided meeting house.
Rochford, T. (2004). Journal of Primary Prevention, 25(1), 41–57
Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, have suffered social and economic deprivation as a result of colonisation. Māori suffer worse health then their Pākehā (non- Māori) cohort. Māori are using their traditional worldview to develop a model of health that can be used as a holistic or unified theory of health. The model, Whare Tapa Wha, can be used as clinical assessment tool. The model is part of Māori seeking to regain control over our health services. It has supported the development of a Māori health sector, which has led to gains in both health and community development.
Myftari, E. (2015)
Telling a coherent, elaborate, and meaningful life story is a vital part of adolescent narrative identity development and of psychological well-being. The current research investigated the development of three levels of personality (narrative identity, dispositional traits and characteristic adaptations) for Māori adolescents in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Pihama, L., Tipene, J., & Skipper, H. (2014)
Kapa haka contributes to many aspects of NZ’s cultural, social and economic contexts. One of the many components of kapa haka is its link to culture and Māori identity and whanaungatanga, the importance of people and connectedness. Waka ama plays a similar role.
McDonald, M. (2016)
A Māori view of happiness includes various dimensions of connection: “happiness is viewed in a holistic way that enhances ‘mana’ and promotes a meaningful existence through Mana Atua – A connection and commitment to the larger universe; Mana Tūpuna – Strengthened genealogical relationships; Mana Tangata – Realisation of human potential and Mana Whenua – Harmonious integration and unity with the environment.
Ingram, Hand, & Maciejewski, 2021
This study considered the effects of COVID-19-induced social isolation on cognitive function within a representative sample of the general population. Social isolation that became necessary for many during lockdowns has adverse effects on cognitive function.
AUT Policy Observatory has curated lists of New Zealand COVID-related research in their Covid Research Notes.
Ministry of Health. (2020). of Health NZ
The COVID-19 Health and Wellbeing Survey provides information about how New Zealanders have been impacted by COVID-19.
Poulton, R., Gluckman, P., Menzies, R., Bardsley, A., McIntosh, T., & Faleafa, M. (2020). Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures.
Discussion paper from the Koi Tū ‘The Future is Now’ Conversation Series, Protecting and Promoting Mental Wellbeing: Beyond COVID-19, focuses on mitigating the threats posed by COVID-19 to the mental wellbeing of New Zealanders.
Perceptive Group. (2020)
A weekly COVID-19 Insights Tracker and interactive dashboard which gives a glimpse into what New Zealand organisations are thinking and feeling during the coronavirus crisis.
Prickett, K. C., Fletcher, M., Chapple, S., Doan, N., & Smith, C. (2020)
In March 2020, New Zealand completed a 48 hour transition to an Alert Level 4 lockdown, a state which severely restricted people’s movement and their social interactions in an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19. To examine the effects of lockdown on economic and social wellbeing in New Zealand, the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families and Children and the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies conducted a survey between April 15-18.
Health Promotion Agency (2020)
Results from a survey of alcohol, tobacco and gambling use during the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown.
Sibley, C. G., Greaves, L., Satherley, N., Wilson, M., Lee, C., Milojev, P., Bulbulia, J., Osborne, D., Milfont, T. L., Overall, N., Houkamau, C., Duck, I., Vickers-Jones, R., & Barlow, F. (2020). [Preprint]. PsyArXiv.
This study investigates the immediate effects of a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 by comparing matched samples of New Zealanders assessed before (Npre-lockdown = 1003) and in the two weeks following (Nlockdown = 1003) the lockdown. It examines two categories of outcomes: (1) institutional trust and attitudes towards the nation and government, and (2) health and wellbeing.
Spoonley, P., Gluckman, P., Bardsley, A., McIntosh, T., Hunia, R., Johal, S., & Poulton, R. (2020). Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures
Discussion paper from the Koi Tū ‘The Future is Now’ Conversation Series, looking at societal resilience and the impact of Covid-19 on New Zealand’s social cohesion.
Tan, Lincoln. (2020, June 23). NZ Herald
Discusses a Massey University study about discrimination and Covid-19.
Zhu, A. (2020). Asian Family Services
This study shows the impact of Covid on the Asian community in New Zealand. Also includes findings about discrimination.