Connectedness & Belonging Program of Research

Human beings need social connection to thrive.

In fact, research demonstrates that a sense of connection and belonging is as, or more, important to health and mortality than whether we are overweight, drink alcohol to excess or smoke 15 cigarettes per day.[1] Nonetheless, smoking and obesity are seen as significant public health issues, and there is considerable investment in smoking cessation and weight loss programs. There is not the same investment in supporting community connection, despite the evidence that it is equally important to a healthy life.

Connection and belonging are crucial to addressing significant social challenges such as mental health, youth offending, child maltreatment and domestic and family violence. Community connectedness is the glue that brings together a disparate service system and supports meaningful change that can be sustained long after specific programs have come to an end.

Recent data demonstrate that up to a third of Australians experience extended periods of feeling isolated and alone. This data is fuelled by increased levels of family transience within and between countries, increased rates of single parenthood, more people choosing to live alone, long commutes between work and home, and the sustained impact on people and communities as a result of events such as natural disasters and a global pandemic. It has never been more important to re-energise the notion of a ‘village’.

It takes a village for societies to be healthy.

TeEACH is developing a rigorous program of research that will explore how to best support social connection and cohesion, particularly for young children and their families. We are interested in working directly with community members and service organisations across diverse locations to understand how they would transform their own communities, reach out to those who are marginalised, and strengthen a sense of community belonging. There is strength, resilience, and resource within every community, and our challenge is to uncover and mobilise these strengths.

[1] Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine7(7), e1000316.