Most people now at risk of poor mental health as a result of social exclusion

More than half of people in the UK have experienced social exclusion in the past year, leading to poor mental health and wellbeingMore than half of people in the UK have experienced social exclusion in the past year, leading to poor mental health and wellbeing, according to a new report from BUPA in partnership with ParalympicsGB. The poll suggests that 58 per cent of British people have felt excluded at some point in the past year – leading them to feel shut out when going about their daily life (28 percent), at work (27 percent) or within society (24 percent). Bupa’s survey also claims that 30 per cent of people have felt a negative impact on their general mental health due to their experience of social exclusion, with many left feeling isolated (41 percent), sad (41 percent) and anxious (33 percent).

Notably, people living with a disability (72 percent) are more likely to experience exclusion. This group is also almost twice as likely to report poor mental health than the wider population, as well as high levels of loneliness (43 percent). Women (61 percent) are also significantly more likely to report feelings of isolation. Currently 44 per cent of people in the UK aren’t involved in social, professional, community or interests-based support networks, while for one in five (21 percent), the number of teams they belong to has decreased over the past three years.

According to the report, people who are part of a team – such as work teams, sports teams, clubs based on hobbies and interests, online communities, religious or community groups – are 17 per cent more likely than average to report that their mental health is good. Meanwhile, disabled people who belong to a team are 80 per cent more likely to say they are happy and 33 per cent more likely to say their mental health is good.

Those who are part of at least one team or society experience personal, professional and health benefits including feeling happier (30 percent), more confident (26 percent) and more likely to achieve their health and fitness goal. The sense of belonging leads to people feeling more included in society (36 percent), sociable (35 percent) and valued (34 percent).

As part of Bupa’s partnership with ParalympicsGB, Bupa is calling for greater inclusion in society, at work and in sport, and is highlighting the importance of being included in a group or team to support better physical and mental health and reach personal goals.

Dr Naomi Humber, head of mental wellbeing at Bupa, says: “Being part of a community or team with common interests or goals has a remarkable positive impact on both physical and mental health. Group participation and inclusion promotes a sense of belonging and social connection, creating a supportive environment that encourages healthy behaviours and motivates individuals to achieve their personal, professional and health goals.”

Dr Naomi Humber continues by sharing the many health benefits of being part of a team:

  1. Creating a support network: Being part of a team at work or within aspects of our personal lives offers a valuable support network to help you navigate life’s challenges. When faced with difficulties, having a group of individuals who share common goals and experiences can provide encouragement, guidance, and emotional support. This sense of belonging reduces feelings of isolation and strengthens your overall mental wellbeing.
  2. Relieving stress and improving mental health: Collaborating within a team allows for the distribution of responsibilities, enabling everyone to share the load and prevent excessive stress or burnout. Sharing the burden makes it more manageable, frees up mental space and promotes better stress management. This can lead to improved physical health by reducing the negative impact of chronic stress on the body.
  3. Building meaningful connections: Being part of a group based on similar interests, hobbies, religion or working towards the same goal often provide opportunities to make meaningful connections and form lasting friendships. Social connections are vital for our wellbeing, contributing to feelings of happiness and fulfilment. Engaging with others who share common interests fosters a sense of camaraderie, boosts self-esteem, and creates a positive social support system, which is crucial for maintaining good mental health.
  4. Enhancing self-confidence and personal growth: Working collaboratively within a team environment allows individuals to develop and showcase their skills. By contributing to shared goals and witnessing the positive impact of their efforts, everyone can experience a shared sense of accomplishment, which enhances self-confidence and self-worth. This personal growth promotes a positive mindset and can lead to improved mental health outcomes.
  5. Encouraging regular physical activity: Many team-based activities involve movement, exercise, or sports, which can benefit both physical and mental health. Regular physical activity releases endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones, which elevate mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Being part of a team provides motivation and accountability, making it easier to maintain an active lifestyle and reap the rewards of improved physical wellbeing.
  6. Maintaining cognitive health and functioning: Social interaction and engagement has been linked to preserved cognitive functioning in later life. Social networks can vary in size and in composition, and being part of different groups flexes those cognitive muscles and keeps our brains active which benefits us as we age.

Together, the social connections, support network, shared responsibilities, and opportunities for personal growth that come with teamwork all contribute to a healthier you.