Based on analysis by Stats NZ (see our summary), the four primary drivers of wellbeing are:
Whilst Central and Local Government has spent billions of dollars over the past decade to improve the three primary drivers of health, income, and housing, it has spent relatively little to improve social connections and reduce loneliness. The small amounts of direct expenditure in this area has been fragmented.
With the Government moving to a Wellbeing Budget in 2019 based on the Living Standards Framework, there is an opportunity to dramatically improve the wellbeing of the New Zealand population by leveraging the untapped primary driver of social connections; in order to prevent and overcome loneliness.
Social development is about improving the well-being of every individual in society so they can reach their full potential. It is about helping people so they can move forward on their path to self-sufficiency.
Improving social connections, and reducing loneliness, is a function of social development. However, the benefits of reduced loneliness primarily fall into health – especially mental health.
There is strong international evidence that investing effectively in mental health services can make a positive difference, both to people’s health, as well as to the economy.
New Zealand’s current approach to mental health services and the intolerably high suicide rates is not working optimally.
There is strong evidence that prevention and early intervention in mental health is most beneficial and cost-effective.
New Zealand’s current approach to mental health is not geared towards prevention and early intervention.
Loneliness is frequently a common symptom and early warning sign of mental health issues, including depression, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies. The need to address loneliness is an unmet need in New Zealand’s health and response system.
By targeting loneliness it is possible to prevent and provide early intervention in mental health issues.
Prevention and early treatment of mental health issues avoids more serious and costly treatment and reduces the pressure on specialist services.
Until now, New Zealand has not had a national focus on loneliness.
By conquering loneliness all New Zealanders will have improved wellbeing and a stronger chance to live well, stay well, and get well.