Loneliness NZ

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The Lonely Millennials: Young Kiwis say they struggle to make friends

Review: Today Brittany Keogh writes in the Sunday Star Times about two socially isolated millennial flatmates, Sacha Aislable and Kate Worboys, who started an Auckland on-line meet-up group to help themselves and other millennials make friends. They look to arrange events that do not cost money, so anyone can join in – for example, meeting at the beach or a park.

They started a Facebook group, called The Lonely Millennials, which enables millennials to turn-off their devices at least once a month and meet face-to-face.  Similar groups have been started in Wellington and Christchurch, with a Wellington 20- to 30-something meetup.com group having more than 4,000  members.

Feature photo: Some of The Lonely Millennials’ Facebook group members met on Saturday. They are from the left Thomas Thew, Alex Vandervoorn, Sacha Aisabie, Kate Worboys and Jessica Segura. David White/Stuff.

Small business owners feel lonely, says Business Mentors NZ chief executive

Review: Today Aimee Shaw reports in the NZ Herald that small business owners can be lonely, according to Craig Garner – the new chief executive of Business Mentors New Zealand.  According to their research, the top problem for 80% of small businesses is isolation.  Many small businesses in New Zealand are owner operator, with no staff.  There are no colleagues to bounce ideas off.

According to the Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson: “Connecting is particularly important for the wellbeing of small business owners who may feel isolated and lonely.  High or long term stress, isolation and loneliness will undoubtedly have negative impacts on mental wellbeing which may manifest as things like burnout, anxiety and depression.”

Feature photo: Business Mentors New Zealand works with some owners who are suicidal. Getty Images.

A story to dine in on: Kids who sit down for family dinners are healthier and smarter

Review: Today Ewan Sargent writes in the Sunday Star Times about the benefits of family dinners for children; although family dinners are decreasing across New Zealand.  The Dinners Make Families Survey commissioned by My Food Bag and the Sunday Star Times interviewed 521 children and 630 adults.  It found that we are eating together at home less often, primarily due to parents being too busy.  Whilst a generation ago three-quarters of children ate dinner with their parents each night, now only 51% do the same.  “We are letting this simple analogue mealtime face-to-face connection slip out of our lives,” Sargent wrote.  According to University of Auckland associate professors Dr Jennifer Utter and Dr Simon Denny, adolescents who frequently participate in family meals report better family relationsihps, better indicators of emotional wellbeing, and better eating behaviours.

According to Dr Simon Denny, those students who share family meals are healthier because, among other factors, they are less depressed and less likely to commit suicide.  According to professor Anne Fishel of Harvard Medical School, dinners are places where children can share positive experiences with parents – and “these small moments can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table.”  According to ToughLove New Zealand trainer Sytske Oldenburger, family dinners “really assists adolescents opening up communication channels.  It’s good for kids who may have shut down.”  Naturally, from a loneliness perspective, better family connection reduces the risk of child and adolescent loneliness.

Feature photo: Charlotte Martin and daughter Ava preparing dinner for the family. David White/Stuff.

Developing a performance-based Living Standards Dashboard

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Media release: Today Loneliness NZ provided its updated response to the New Zealand Treasury’s request for submissions on the independent report “Treasuring Living Standards Dashboard: Monitoring Intergenerational Wellbeing”, and its proposed Living Standards Dashboard.


The New Zealand Treasury is developing a world-leading framework for prioritising Government policy. Rather than Treasury focusing on a financial measure such as improving GDP per capita, the Treasury is developing the Living Standards Framework, which is based more broadly on improving current and future individual wellbeing. An important element of the Framework is to develop the indicators that make up the Framework’s dashboard. The Treasury commissioned Conal Smith of Kōtātā Insight to prepare a report recommending the indicators that make up the Living Standards Framework. The Treasury has put this report out for consultation.

Our view

We recognise that this is an important consultation for the Treasury, Government, and the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.  We agree with the Chief Economic Adviser, Tim Ng, that the independent report by Conal Smith is “world-class.”

In our view, however, the primary issue with the proposed Living Standards Framework and Dashboard is that it is not performance-based.  What we mean is that it is not focused on a specific measurable outcome.  Instead, it is based around a ‘warm fuzzy’ concept of wellbeing outcomes.  In particular, the Framework is a model of flows and the Dashboard is a categorised list of indicators within the model.  In our experience, this Framework and Dashboard will only achieve about 30% of what is possible if it were performance-based.  Given the likely poorer outcome in its current form, the Framework may in time become more of an academic model or even be disbanded.  That would be a great loss to New Zealand and all New Zealanders.

The good news is that the foundational work to create a performance-based Framework and Dashboard has been completed in parts by Conal Smith’s report, New Zealand Treasury, and Stats NZ.  In this submission, we show how to convert all this work into an integrated performance-based Living Standards Framework and Dashboard.

Our response

To create a performance-based framework, we recommend:

  • An optimisation function that gives clarity to Treasury and Government: To maximise current and future individual wellbeing, as measured by life satisfaction; and to make these subject to international law and conventions, including human rights and New Zealand law, as well as our strongly desired ethics and values.
  • A hierarchical structure of individual wellbeing domains that makes it clear which domains are the primary drivers of this objective function and which are the secondary drivers.
  • The primary domains of individual wellbeing are health, income, social connections, and housing, based on work undertaken by Stats NZ.
  • A hierarchical structure of the capital stocks that makes it clear how the different capital stocks fit together.
  • The framework and dashboard be broad based to capture all the key investments in capital stocks that drive future individual wellbeing – particularly Local Government capital.
  • Each of the labelled capital stocks have two primary capital stocks, i.e. natural capital (environmental capital and ecosystem capital), human capital (knowledge capital and health capital), social capital (social connections capital and trust capital), and produced capital (public capital and private capital).
  • Social connections capital is an intergenerational capital capturing the ease with which society facilitates meaningful social connections. It is made up of community capital, family capital, and friends capital. We identify 30 societal changes that have negative impacted social connections capital over the last forty years.
  • There be one indicator for each domain of wellbeing (we recommend each indicator) and one indicator for each capital stock (we recommend each indicator).
  • There be an efficiency indicator for investments in capital stocks.
The submission, which provides further rationale and the recommended indicators, can be found in Further information below.

Feature photo: Loneliness NZ.

Your work, your time, your choice

Review: Today Dani Wright writes in the NZ Herald about the benefits and pitfalls of freelancing and contracting from home.  The benefits of working for an employer (at their place of work) include “security, social connection, and regular salary.”  For freelancer Dani Wright, “I’ve found the best things have been the variety of work, the better pay and the ability to be more connected to my family life.”

Freelance PR consultant Lindsay Stanley admits “to missing out on chatting to colleagues because she is working from home, but when she feels the need to be around others, she books herself into a co-working space, such as Bizdojo in Takapuna, to help her feel more social.”

Feature photo: When you are a freelancer, your work space is your choice. Getty.

Verity Johnson: Come on guys, you’ll feel better for the occasional cuddle

Review: Today Verity Johson wrote an opinion piece in the Dominion about the importance of guys having the occassional cuddle. She writes: “But Kiwi dudes live in a world where their sexuality is so rigidly policed that anything from a hug, to ordering a brightly coloured cocktail, to wearing anything more flamboyant than a bin bag means they’re at risk of looking effeminate or “a bit gay, mate”. How exhausting.

More importantly, how lonely.”

She continues: “This is where men’s touch starvation is so harmful. You can’t help but think if it was a little more acceptable for them to touch and be touched, we wouldn’t have such a crippling problem with our staggeringly high male loneliness, depression and suicide rates.

But instead, we have a world where male suicide rates are 2½ times higher than those of females, and men wait for cuddles in strip clubs.”

Feature photo: “You don’t have to go far to see how men could feel starved of platonic, non-sexual touch,” writes Verity Johnson. 123RF.

Mental health inquiry says ‘there was some rage’ as it acknowledges public frustration but remains confident of delivering blueprint for change to Government

Review: Today Chris Reed reports in the NZ Herald on progress by the government inquiry into mental health and addiction.  The inquiry has received about 5,200 submissions and the panel members have met with more than 200 organisations, community groups, and individuals.

With regards to calls for a holistic approach, Inquiry Chair Ron Paterson said: “[There’s a] very, very strong message that we should be focusing on wellbeing and we should be focusing on what we do to support wellbeing in the community and that includes eating well, physical health, spiritual health, connection with your family.”

In regards to the complaints heard nationwide of over-medication, he said: “You can’t medicate grief and loneliness and people need much more holistic care.”

With respect to a shift towards prevention, he said: “A lot of people are talking about the need [to give] kids the tools they need to cope with life’s crises.  So many children and young people are presenting with anxiety.  People are trying to think how we can give them the tools they need in schools.”

Feature photo: Darkest times of pain, grief, rage spill out.

Business gets in touch with softer side as Finance Minister presents ‘wellbeing’ Budget

Review: Today Andrea Fox reports in the NZ Herald about a presentation by Grant Robinson to business people in the Waikato about next year’s wellbeing budget. Robertson described the four capital stocks, and introduced the concept of loneliness. For human capital, he said: “Human capital…how are our people, how educated are they, how healthy are they, how secure do we feel as individuals? Are people more lonely in society than they used to be?”

For social capital, he said: “Then social capital – how connected are our communities? How strong are they? Across these four dimensions we will get a much better picture of our success as a country.”

Feature photo: Finance Minister Grant Robinson. NZ Herald file photo.

NZ Treasury says first go at living standards framework to be ready for Budget 2019

Review: Today Sophie Boot of newsroom.co.nz reported on this morning’s NZ Treasury briefing to the finance and select committee on the proposal by independent economist Conal Smith for the living standards dashboard. The Treasury expects the framework and dashboard to evolve over time, with budget 2019 the “first version”.

Treasury’s Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Ross, expects ‘to see the framework impact how public sector management operates and to get agencies to work more horizontally on issues that affect multiple agencies, along with how government considers ministerial portfolios.’

Treasury’s Chief Economic Adviser, Tim Ng, said that whilst some measures such as employment and housing were measurable, other measures such as social connection would be surveyed: “They are necessarily subjective. Having said that, there is evidence of varying degrees of reliability about the connection between those subjective measures – what people report about their own feelings about social connectedness – and outcomes that actually matter, that you would measure as a government and as a policy analyst, things like participation in the labour force.”

Feature photo: The Treasury says a “first version” of its living standards framework will be ready for the government to use in Budget 2019. Lynn Grieveson.

Rodney Yeoman and Douglas Fairgray: Treasury and court show social values coming to the fore

Review: Today Rodney Yeoman and Douglas Fairgray of Market Economics write an opinion piece in the NZ Herald about New Zealand moving away from a free market economy towards a more social-market economy. As examples, they point to the Environment Court decision to protect Okura’s natural environment from development and the Treasury’s development of the Living Standards Framework, which  “is likely to bring a significant shift in policy advice.”

They conclude: “This apparent rise of the social-market tide in institutional thinking is to be welcomed. The wellbeing of society is not defined simply by market transactions or income.  Rather, much of the New Zealand community’s wellbeing is driven by the non-market values of our environmental, cultural and social resources.”

Feature photo: In the Okura decision, the Environment Court concluded “we find that non-market costs … should be taken into account in the overall economic evaluation”. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey