Half of all adults in the UK regret not investing more in relationships, new survey reveals

Mental Health Awareness Week set to highlight that good relationships are fundamental to our mental health and wellbeing

Now in its 16th year, Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22 May 2016) focuses on the theme ‘Relationships in the 21st Century’ - the forgotten foundation of good mental health.

A new survey of over 2,000 UK adults commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and conducted by YouGov has found that nearly half of UK adults (46%) regret not investing more time in the relationships that matter to them, with men more likely to feel regret than women (50% compared to 42%).

It emerged that more people identified maintaining healthy relationships as ‘most important’ to their wellbeing (38%) than those who chose eating healthily (16%), exercising (10%) and avoiding negative habits (8%) such as smoking combined. 

Despite relationships appearing to be held in high esteem, we’re over three times more likely to have made a resolution to improve our physical health than our relationships with friends and family. 40% of UK adults have made a New Year’s resolution to improve their physical health and yet only 11% have made a New Year’s resolution to improve their relationships with friends and family.

Women were found to put much more emphasis on the importance of having close friends who they can talk to about how they’re feeling. The overwhelming majority (80%) of women agree that it is important to have friends who they can speak to about their feelings and emotions compared to just 66% of men. The survey also found a generational difference, with 80% of 18-34 year olds recognising the importance of having a close friend, which fell to fewer than 70% of those aged 45 plus. 

12% of 18-24 year olds disagree that having friends they can talk to is important compared to 26% of those aged over 55.

The Mental Health Foundation commissioned the survey after conducting an extensive review of global evidence which overwhelmingly pointed to good-quality relationships being key in helping us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems. The Foundation points out that the influence of social relationships on health and wellbeing is comparable to well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking.

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:

"It’s time to recognise the global body of evidence which tells us that people who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer with fewer mental health problems.

"It’s striking that the influence of social relationships on the risk of death is comparable with well-established risk factors. We need to give ourselves permission to spend more of our time in the friendships and relationships that are core to our wellbeing."

The Mental Health Foundation is calling on the British public to take their Relationships Resolutions pledge. People who sign up to the pledge will receive a text on December 31st 2016, checking in to see how people feel they have done and encouraging them to carry their Relationships Resolutions forward into the New Year.

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: 

"Relationships require reflection, time, courage and grace.  Modern life often reduces the space to do this. Too many of us cut back on our time with people we care about under stress - be it exams, work commitments or financial pressures. This report reinforces the message that we should never under estimate or fail to invest in our collective capacity to connect with others.

"Who amongst us, if given this message, would not want to build closer ties with those we feel close to? The Mental Health Foundation calls on people to take one small step towards improving their relationships and make a Relationships Resolution."

Dalano, whose relationships helped him cope with depression said:

"Connecting with others has taught me that there are other ways to see myself and my life and by nurturing the right relationships, my perception of myself and my life can be transformed."

Nikita, whose relationships have supported her when things got tough, said:

"If good mental health was made up of a bunch of books on a shelf, titles would include things like 'healthy eating', 'exercise', 'medication', and 'therapy'. 'Stable relationships' would be the bookends keeping everything together."

Mental Health Awareness Week 

Mental Health Awareness Week gives us an opportunity to ignite a national debate promoting good mental health. Mental Health Awareness Week now involves hundreds of organisations across the country in activities to promote good mental health.

For more details, or to arrange an interview with the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Jenny Edwards CBE, and/or case studies contact the press office on 02078031110 / 07427964766 or via press@mentalhealth.org.uk.

Each year, the Mental Health Foundation looks at the global body of research to identify anything that needs highlighting in the national conversation around mental health. 

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2086 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 26th April 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).