A landmark study shows winter is bad for our wellbeing, while sitting down and eating with others is one of the four most important factors that are good for our mental health. Eating alone could drop the score of your state of wellbeing, the study shows.
The study aims to define, measure and track what it really means to live well today. The answer to living well, it seems, is simple. Spend more time with friends. National moments like the Royal Wedding and World Cup, which bring people together, will lift our spirits as we spend more time together socially – a powerful driver of what it means to live well.
Seasonal factors like extreme weather and public transport chaos hold us back from spending time outdoors and meeting up with friends and family, factors which have been found to have a significant association with our wellbeing.
Social interactions and relationships are fundamental to our wellbeing – activities such as meeting and speaking to friends and family, or chatting to neighbours, had a clear positive association with our wellbeing. Over half of those with the highest Index scores met up with friends and family several times a week or more, whereas most of those at the bottom of the index did so once a month or less.
The research found that the medium of these social interactions was key: despite the frequency of our digital interactions with friends and family – twice as often as face-to-face, on average – there was no association with these interactions and our wellbeing.
Sitting down and eating with others is one of the four most important factors explaining the ‘living well gap’ – behind sleep quality, sex life satisfaction and feeling like you have enough time. The analysis shows that almost 10% of this ‘living well gap’ can be explained by not regularly sitting down to eat with others. Someone who always eats meals with others scored significantly higher on the Index (7.9 points) than someone who never does.
These are some of the findings of the latest Sainsbury’s Living Well Index, developed by the retailer in partnership with leading researchers Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research.