11th September 2019

London Living - Connecting Communities


It’s good to talk – some of you may remember this as the slogan from a popular BT advert which started, gulp, almost 30 years ago. BT introduced this campaign to bring men ‘the bill payers’ onboard with using the phone as women were the main users. How the world has changed!

However, this slogan is still fit for today, just for different reasons. Neighbourhoods are dispersing and people feel less routed to their surroundings. We may communicate more regularly now using technology but it is arguably less meaningful and this is having an impact on our mental health.

In this latest article on LondonLiving, Jessica Mueller, analyst at DTZ Investors looks at the importance of community and our need as human beings to connect.

According to a survey undertaken by ACEVO (2017), the loneliness epidemic is not something that is just affecting the elderly, 83% of 18-34 year olds in the UK report feeling lonely regularly. It is quite a difficult figure to comprehend and of course, the results are subjective. However, it shows that there is something lacking in many of the millennials’ lives. Fortunately, loneliness and mental health are becoming more regular and easier conversations between friends and family. Charities and social media have been promoting discussion and now the focus is moving towards employees and trying to encourage better relationships between colleagues.

As I’ve mentioned previously in the Together Alone article, London can be a particularly lonely place for people in every age group and finding the solution to this is difficult. Generation Rent / younger generations are used to having many different supportive communities around them whilst growing up whether that is through family, teachers, friends, sports or music clubs and even doctors and dentists… what you probably remember as your neighbourhood. There is a genuine sense of care from these people who work or interact with teenagers and children. Those that attend university have an easing into the ‘real’ world but heading into work or moving out of home can be a challenging period for anyone. Once you are in a city there is very little community feel which can lead people to feeling lonely or unsettled.

Looking back a few decades, neighbourhoods were built from people sharing and taking care of each other, by offering a helping hand or giving advice on their specialist subject. Opportunities grew from these neighbourhoods and businesses formed, the larger your neighbourhood was, the greater chance you had in finding a job/opportunity. Most people in these communities had a sense of purpose and therefore felt more fulfilled. Fast forward to now and technology has grown our neighbourhoods to a global scale, by allowing us to contact someone instantly through messaging, calls, video calls and social media. Technology has given us the opportunity to stay in touch with family and friends through Whatsapp groups and Shared Photo Libraries and whilst this is fantastic in many lives, it has also replaced the physical presence which has consequences for mental health.

A more supportive community throughout each individual’s life and not just through school, could save the economy £32bn a year (according to the Eden Project, Communities in 2017) by reducing demand on health and police services but also by increasing people’s productivity. Work colleagues and the workplace are an important part of an individual’s life, considering the average person spends over 50% of their waking hours with colleagues. Employers should be creating environments where colleagues are able to relax into their work environment whether that is through hosting events or having areas designed for relaxed conversations. Friends are your chosen family, having a full circle of support throughout your life from friends, family and work, surely is the best way to avoid this loneliness?

Jessica Mueller


LondonLiving is a weekly thought piece looking at different aspects of life in the capital; from the logistics of deliveries, the plight of loneliness, through to how generation rent is shaping its future.

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