PEOPLE who are members of church or community groups are happier with their lives, and feel better supported, than those who do not belong to a group, a small study carried out by the Church Urban Fund (CUF) suggests.
The CUF study found that activity groups — many of which are run by churches — played an important part in people’s sense of well-being. The research also showed that, for participants from more disadvantaged backgrounds, the benefits were even more obvious.
The CUF, in partnership with the University of Queensland, studied 160 participants in 22 groups, from various English regions. The groups encompassed choirs, lunch groups, exercise classes, and craft and woodworking groups. Many of the groups had been set up by churches.
People with a high sense of connection to groups reported significantly better life-satisfaction and social support than those who felt less connected to groups. This effect was greatest among those from a disadvantaged background.
The majority of respondents were white, British, and Christian, although adherents of other faiths, including Muslims, were represented. Most were residents in areas of the country with greater levels of deprivation, where CUF is already working.
One of the report’s authors, Elizabeth Bramley, said: “It is well known that loneliness and social isolation have negative impacts on people’s mental health and well-being. In our society, social isolation, poor mental health, and low levels of well-being are significant issues. As our communities become more fragmented, many people are struggling to access the social networks and groups that can boost life satisfaction and help to build resilience.
“This research reinforces what we already know about the significance of inter-personal relationships for people’s well-being and flourishing, and points to the importance of churches and other groups’ continuing to provide opportunities for people to connect with others, and to create spaces where people can feel that they belong.”