Solo parents have fewer supportive friends and family members than any other group of New Zealanders, new research shows.

Only 29 per cent of sole parents with children said they had more than 10 supportive friends or family members in the 2014 NZ General Social Survey, compared with 47 per cent of couples with children, 44 per cent of couples without children at home and 36 per cent of flatters and others in non-family homes.

A new analysis of the survey data, published today by Statistics NZ, found that overall life satisfaction increased directly in line with a person's number of supportive friends and family, from 60 per cent for those with no support network at all up to 89 per cent for those with more than 10 in their support group.

Conversely, loneliness decreased from 14 per cent of those with no supportive friends or family down to 2 per cent for those with support networks of more than 10.


"Support networks are important for people's wellbeing," said Statistics NZ analyst Rosemary Goodyear.

"They provide a means of emotional support and companionship and assistance in times of need. Having large numbers of family and friends can encourage healthy behaviours and improve general wellbeing outcomes."

The study found that the vast majority of New Zealanders have wide support networks: 42 per cent have more than 10 supportive friends and family members; 43 per cent between five and 10; 10 per cent three or four; 5 per cent one or two; and only 1 per cent have none.

More than half (56 per cent) also have supportive neighbours.

Wide support networks of at least 10 people are most common among young adults aged 25 to 44 (46 per cent), when adults' own networks are most likely to be supplemented by their children's networks.

Young people aged 15 to 24 are also likely to have more than 10 supportive friends or family members (43 per cent), but the numbers drop off as people move into the 45-64 age bracket (40 per cent) and reach 65-plus (35 per cent).

Ethnically, Maori are the most likely to have at least 10 people in their support network (48 per cent), followed by Europeans (42 per cent), Pacific people (39 per cent) and Asians (31 per cent).

Perhaps surprisingly, men and women are almost equally sociable: 41 per cent of men, and 42 per cent of women, have more than 10 supportive friends and family members.