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Year of living neighbourly: Australians looking across the back fence for friendship

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The pandemic has forced major cultural shifts in the space of a year that have seen Australians become more community minded, wealthier and more concerned about their physical and mental health.

 

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Suncorp said there had been a shift in neighbourly attitudes. In 2020, almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Australians didn’t communicate with their neighbours. A year later 42 per cent of Australians now had a closer relationship across the fence.

Its survey of about 1000 people also found about 63 per cent were happier, or would be happier, speaking with their neighbours more often and 72 per cent of people said they would have greater peace of mind leaving their property if they knew their neighbours better.

Suncorp’s head of home claims Joel Manning said the cultural shift towards community cohesion and neighbourly friendliness was more than just psychologically and emotionally beneficial.

“The benefits of community connection and good neighbour relationships are huge, especially in building safe, strong and resilient communities,” Manning said.

“We know that when emergencies like floods, fires or cyclones strike, those neighbourhood relationships can make all the difference with preparation, action, recovery and, in some cases, survival.

“Knowing your neighbours can also give you peace of mind when you’re away on a trip, knowing someone is there to keep an eye on your property.’’

Previous studies have found a shift to the outer suburbs was also underway as more Australians worked from home.

The population had also become wealthier in the past year with the biggest increase in personal wealth in more than a decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Physical and mental health was also getting a higher priority.

The findings add to those from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which has tracked cultural and social changes since the pandemic began.

It found that Australians were much wealthier since the pandemic because of the increase in housing prices. Household wealth has increased 4.3 per cent to $501 billion in December quarter, the largest increase since 2009.

Wealth per capita was $467,709, up 7 per cent.

ABS said there had been a shift in priorities for many Australians when it came to physical mental health

One in three are prioritising physical health since the start of the pandemic and one in four are placing greater emphasis on mental health.

But there had also been a drop off in people attending social gatherings, particularly among older Australians.

Other changes forced by Covid included a big jump in working from home. More than 40 per cent of Australians worked from home at least once a week in February 2021, compared with 24 per cent at least once a week before March 2020.

 

 

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