“I need to be around people, even though it's not easy at times. You get out of your own head that way.”
Being part of a community can have a positive effect on mental health and emotional wellbeing. Community involvement provides a sense of belonging and social connectedness. It can also offer extra meaning and purpose to everyday life.
Communities can exist or be created from a shared location, hobbies, lived experiences and backgrounds, or a common cause. For many people, communicating with others – through online forums, social media, or in person – can help them to have a healthier mindset, improved self-worth, and greater enjoyment of life.
Around one-third of Australian adults are not involved in any social or community groups. Having people to talk to and depend on, and making new connections through hobbies or a social group can help reduce the risk of mental illness.
There are many activities that can help increase your sense of belonging. Learning a language or martial art, volunteering, or joining a dancing group are a few options. As a first step, you can find out what meetups are taking place in your local centres, and take it forward from there.
We have a few resources to help you get started. We also have pages on social connectedness, hobbies, and more.
A closer look
Recreational physical activity improves mental health
A large study revealed that psychological distress reduced by 34% from playing recreational sport 1-3 times a week. Organised recreational activity can improve cognitive functioning and self-esteem. It is also deemed by the study to be as potent as medication for moderate cases of anxiety and depression. In other studies, group recreational activity has been shown to decrease depression in older people. (Source)
Worldwide studies show social participation is directly linked to mental wellbeing
Increasing community participation by 10% was shown to reduce violent crime rates by 1.9% (Australian study). People without social support are five times more likely to experience a mental illness (UK study). Social participation and support are strongly linked to a long life, as well as the improved handling of stressful life situations (Norway study). Participating socially can be an effective way to maintain cognitive vitality in older adults (USA study). (Source)
Friendships and peer social support protects mental health in young people
Social support has been proven to be a protective factor in children and teenagers’ mental wellbeing. Feeling valued and comfortable socially can prevent and reduce feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and more. Connection and community via peer groups even leads to fewer behavioural issues. (Source)
Stigma and social exclusion impacts mental wellbeing
Discrimination, stigma, and being ignored are all experiences that have worsened or created a barrier to social connectedness for people experiencing mental illness. Stigma has, in some cases, affected carers and family members of the person experiencing the mental illness as well. (Source)
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).