New research has found that New Zealanders are losing touch with their neighbours - and it's affecting our wellbeing.

In the recently released results of the Sovereign Wellness Index, New Zealand trailed behind other countries when it came social connections and community, with our neighbourly relations particularly lacking.

"We came last when compared to 29 European countries that deployed the same survey, which is not only a disappointing result but, when compared to the first Sovereign Wellbeing Index in 2013, it shows no improvement," said Grant Schofield professor of public health at AUT University, who led the research.

The survey found that only four per cent of New Zealanders agreed they felt close to people in their local area - which Mr Schofield said was a symptom of sprawling, car-centric cities such as Auckland.


"Community design has a role to play in fostering connections and I don't believe we are seeing the benefit of this in New Zealand," he said.

"Work, play and home are often on opposite sides of the city and the commute is killing our neighbourly interaction and our community integration, " Mr Schofield said.

The survey also found that almost 40 per cent of Kiwis only meet with others socially once a month or less.

Peter Adams, Deputy Head of the University of Auckland's School of Population Health said that the result suggested that there were quite low levels of community engagement in New Zealand.

However, he said that it was important to remember that community can be defined in many different ways - with many younger people opting to communicate through social media.

He said the recent Youth '12 health survey was "pretty optimistic" when it came to young people's social connectedness.

"Social media has created new ways of connecting, not just on the computer.

"It enables people to connect physically as well, in a different way."


Identifying a deficit in social connectedness depended on how the concept of community was defined and this could include connections on the internet, with family, within friendship circles and in the workplace, he said.

"Of course social connectedness is vital to people's wellbeing and health, that's well established," he said.

"Whether there is a deficit there in terms of community connectedness depends on how you define a person's community."

Casey Eden, the co-founder of, said their website was "a great ice breaker" for those hoping to get to know their neighbours.

When researching the Neighbourly concept she found many New Zealanders were disconnected from their communities.

"It's not until you stop and think about the last time you chatted at length with a neighbour, maybe gave them a hand or consider how little you have to do with your neighbourhood compared to the community you grew up in, that you realise how far removed we've become."

Results from a survey carried out by Neighbourly last year found that 85.5 per cent of people wanted to connect more closely with their neighbours, but 71 per cent just didn't see them around enough.

The reasons for this included "our high fences, the influence of internet and digital mobility, language barriers, isolation, high vehicle usage, more desire for privacy and more full-time working parents," said Mr Eden.

"We also know that many people are simply lacking the confidence to strike up a conversation with their neighbour."

AUT sociologist Charles Crothers told the Herald earlier this year the result of the Sovereign Wellness Index did not necessarily mean New Zealanders were socially isolated.

He cited a world values survey showing that 87 per cent of us belong to some kind of social group such as a sports club or charity - the fourth-highest rate in the world.

Sovereign Wellness Index

• 25 per cent of New Zealanders had high levels of wellbeing

• 35 per cent of adults aged 55 and over had high levels of wellbeing

• 36 per cent of adults with a household income over $100k had high levels of wellbeing

• 48 per cent of adults living comfortably on their present income had high levels of wellbeing

• 45 per cent of adults in very good health had high levels of wellbeing

• 36 per cent of New Zealanders felt appreciated by those close to them

• 4 per cent of New Zealanders strongly agreed that they felt close to people in their local area