How do relationships improve our wellbeing?

How important are the relationships with our friends, family and work colleagues? The ONS has used data from academic studies including Understanding Society to find that good relationships are fundamental to a more contented life.

As part of the ONS Measuring National Well-being programme, the department has produced: Measuring National Well-being: Our Relationships, 2015

The article focuses on people’s relationships with both family and friends and aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation.

The authors comment,

“Previous research has shown that the amount and quality of social connections with people around us are vitally important to an individual’s well-being and should be considered when making any assessment of National Well-being.

“Social connections, including marriage, of course, but not limited to that, are among the most robust correlates of subjective well-being. People who have close friends and confidants, friendly neighbours and supportive co-workers are less likely to experience sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem and problems with eating and sleeping”
(Helliwell and Putnam, 2004)

The article covers five main relationship areas, family, friends, community, work and social life. Data from Understanding Society featured heavily in the ‘friends’ analysis.

Who’s friends with who?

  • The results showed that 53% of participants reported that all their friends were of the same ethnic group.
  • A third (33%) reported that all their friends were of a similar age while 39% reported they had a similar level of education.
  • Under a fifth stated that their friends received a similar income or lived in their local area (17% and 14% respectively).

More key findings

  • Money worries were reported as the main factor that puts a strain on a relationship by 62% of people aged 16 and over in the UK in 2014.
  • Just under a third (32%) of adults aged 16 and over in the UK who were married or in a civil partnership rated their satisfaction with life as very high (9 to 10 out of 10) in 2013–14.
  • In April and June 2014, over half (53%) of people in Great Britain reported some feeling of loneliness (answers of 1 or more out of 10).
  • Just under two-thirds (64%) of employees in the UK reported the relationship between themselves and their managers as good or very good, while 13% reported relations as poor or very poor.

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