Thursday, 28 November 2013

North West England report warns "We Don't Talk Any More" (to neighbours, anyway)

A Public Health England report published today on mental wellbeing in the North West (PDF) has found that although there has been an increase in people within the region reporting to be in ‘very good’ health (an increase of 18.2%), and more people with greater life satisfaction (increase of 10.5%), people with long-term conditions had a significantly lower level of mental wellbeing than average.

The survey notes a further decline in neighbourly relations – with the number of people who say they talk to their neighbours ‘on most days’ down from 51.9% to 33.6%.

The first ‘North West Mental Wellbeing Survey’ published in 2009  (PDF Link) showed that people with good mental wellbeing have higher life satisfaction and are much more likely to be in employment, be educated, be healthy and have closer relationships with others.

The follow up report published today has revealed that while there has been little change in average mental wellbeing across the North West between 2009 and 2012/13, there have been significant changes in some of the key factors that influence wellbeing.

Key findings from the ‘North West Mental Wellbeing Survey 2012/13’ (PDF) include:

Health

  • A significant increase (+18.2%) in the number of people reporting to be in ‘very good’ health
  • Fewer people reported being current smokers (29.8% in 2009 and 27.7% in 2012/13) 
  • A fall in the number of people meeting current guidelines for physical activity (30.4% in 2009 and 27.1% in 2012/13) 
  • People with long-term conditions had a significantly lower level of mental wellbeing than average. Conditions most strongly associated with lower mental wellbeing include depression, anxiety and stress, liver disease and stroke

Neighbourhood and social connections

  • The number of people who talk to their neighbours ‘on most days’ has fallen from 51.9% to 33.6%; the number of people who ‘never’ talk to their neighbours has risen from 2.6% to 4.7%; and the number of people who meet with friends and family (that they are not living with) ‘on most days’ has fallen from 53.9% to 41.2% 
  • There was a 12.7% fall in the number of people who felt ‘very strongly’ that they belonged to their immediate neighbourhood

Activities

  • People who had undertaken voluntary work in the past year (14.3%) had significantly higher mental wellbeing compared to those who did not 
  • There was a 9.1% fall in the number of people who ‘definitely agreed’ they have time to do the things they really enjoy

Across both survey years, relatively low levels of mental wellbeing were more likely to be found among people living in the most deprived areas and among those aged 40 to 54 years.

“This survey is a crucial piece of work in helping us understand the significance of mental wellbeing to our physical health and our overall wellbeing," commented Professor Paul Johnstone, Regional Director of Public Health England, North. "It is clear that we shouldn’t treat these issues separately but do more to address whole-person approaches in all our services.”

“Having good mental wellbeing underpins all aspects of living healthily, managing and recovering from illness and living with long-term conditions, argues Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s Director of Health and Wellbeing, commenting on the results of the survey.

“Maintaining good relationships with the people around us and a sense of belonging to where we live are hugely important factors for our physical and mental health.

"A worrying finding from the survey is that people feel both of these are declining. The public health system needs to continue to understand the factors contributing to the mental wellbeing of our communities and commission services that address mental as well as physical wellbeing.”

The survey findings will be used by local authorities and their partners across the North West to support local action to improve mental wellbeing. They will also be used alongside the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, to increase awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing in improving people’s lives.

Read the North West Mental Wellbeing Survey 2012/13 report on the North West Public Health web site (this site will eventually be merged into Public Health England)

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