Stronger together? ACT’s role in rural wellbeing

Stronger together? ACT’s role in rural wellbeing

29th June 2022

I’m Jozi Brown and I recently started working at ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, as the development officer for neighbourliness and rural wellbeing work. I’ve worked in the third sector since I left college, 26 years ago. My previous roles have all involved working with people and communities to improve health and wellbeing, in one form or another. Living in rural Cumbria is a pleasure, but one that comes with its own challenges - one of those is social isolation.

Personal resilience is inextricably linked to community resilience; how we connect and relate to those around us and the relationships we have within our communities can provide us with a protective layer, conversely – loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher rates of depression, weakened immune system, heart disease and dementia, to name a few. We also know that ‘wider determinants of health’ conversations focus heavily on social and community networks and living and working conditions.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s recent report “Stronger together: the indispensable role of human relationships in economic security” discussed how a recent overview of myriad epidemiological studies concluded there "is good evidence to suggest that ‘social capital’ predicts better mental and physical health". The report also looks at the role of family and social connectivity in reducing the risk of employment and increasing financial security, which given the current cost of living crisis, is especially pertinent.

We’ve seen some amazing examples of community spirit, kindness and neighbourliness over the past few years in Cumbria, much of it sparked by the need to support each other throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, but there are concerns that this is waning. Whilst this is understandable as we return to our busy pre-pandemic lives, it also means a return to loneliness and isolation for many. Co-op’s research suggests that there was a 46% fall in UK adults who know if neighbours are vulnerable or not between April 2020 and December 2020 and over 9 million people report that they are 'often' or are 'always lonely'.

My new role involves exploring how we can nurture local community networks, new and existing, to build ‘social capital’, helping communities to help themselves - and working with them to extend that protective layer to our neighbours and community members who need it most.

If you’re part of a neighbourliness group or you’re interested in starting one – have a look at our Neighbourliness webpage for some ideas and how you can get involved.

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