Led by Dr. Meg Holden, the SFU Research Team has published an article on The Conversation Canada about the importance of prioritizing social connections during the COVID-19 recovery. It draws on recent research done with Hey Neighbour Collective partners Brightside and Catalyst as well as wider research.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all more conscious about restricting our ‘social bubbles’ to a ‘safe six’. The March 2021 update allows for outdoor bubbles of ten, with an emphasis on the fact that these should be a consistent set of ten people.
These strict directives to stick to our bubbles are essential to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. At the same time, this way of thinking disrupts our understanding of the kinds and quantities of social interactions needed to make healthy cities possible.
The social determinants of health help us understand the importance of social connection, well-being, connections, services, and equity. Data collected by Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health Authorities revealed that 45% of respondents in Metro Vancouver had four or more connections who they could confide in or call for help.
Survey data gathered from residents of Brightside Community Homes and Catalyst Community Development Society rental buildings mirrors this, as it found only 41% of respondents had four or more close friends. This data also revealed that respondents who reported four or fewer close friends had 2.3 times higher odds of reporting fair or poor mental health.
Despite these trends, Canadians tend to underestimate the importance of their social connection to their health. Only one-quarter of respondents to a 2020 Statistics Canada Survey reported a concern about maintaining social ties during the pandemic.
Social connection is a crucial element in personal and community well-being. As soon as health orders lift, it will be paramount to expand and burst people’s social bubbles to improve mental and physical health. Hey Neighbour Collective is already doing this work which will only be more important after the pandemic.
“Bursting social bubbles after COVID-19 will make cities happier and healthier again,” by Meg Holden, Meghan Winters, Atiya Mahmood, Ghazaleh Akbarnejad, Lainey Martin, at The Conversation.