Bay residents flourishing: Survey

By James Fuller

Bay of Plenty residents are flourishing compared to the rest of New Zealand according to the largest national wellbeing survey ever conducted.

The inaugural Sovereign Wellbeing Index canvassed nearly 10,000 people over nine key indicators and across 15 regions around the country. Those who scored well were defined as "flourishing". The Bay of Plenty came out top overall. The report found those who experienced higher levels of wellbeing were: socially connected with others; gave time and resources to others; were able to appreciate and take notice of things around them; were learning new things in their life; and were physically active.

On a region-by-region basis the Bay of Plenty was found to have the least depressed people; was fourth out of 15 regions for connecting to other people and for giving to others; and placed second nationally for continued learning (within this sector those aged 70-79 were the most active learners). Ethnicity was not found to have a significant impact on wellbeing however social standing, and having more money, did.

Les Simmonds, national clinical leader for family services with Relationships Aotearoa (formerly Relationship Services), said connectivity and feeling part of a community was a recognised wellbeing indicator.

"In larger cities people are far more anonymous, the opportunities are perhaps greater for connectivity here in the Bay.

"I moved here from Auckland around 10 years ago and the difference in people's attitudes and relationships was marked. I remember walking to the local shops and people saying hello and being so friendly; within three days they were calling me by my name. It was surprising but in a positive way," said Mr Simmonds. "If you drove for a kilometre in Auckland you would see a lot of depressed housing areas, you don't get that to the same degree here, in fact you will find more sea views than anything. "There's definitely a slower pace to life here as well."

The Bay of Plenty's weather was a factor for Tauranga National MP and cabinet minister Simon Bridges. "It just goes to show what we already know in that people move to the Bay of Plenty for lifestyle reasons," said Mr Bridges. "It's the sunniest part of New Zealand and people can get out and about more. It may sound a bit simplistic but the sunnier it is the greater the opportunity to get out and be active and connect with others."

Tauranga grandmother Melva Cummins, 84, said staying socially connected and keeping active were keys to wellbeing. Mrs Cummins became a YouTube sensation in 2012 when her dance moves at the Stretch Festival in Western Australia were videoed and downloaded. She keeps herself active by walking, gardening, bike riding and performing dance routines around retirement homes in Tauranga. "I will sidle up to someone and have a chat, especially if they're looking down; just try to make their day a bit brighter."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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