For those of us who work in social and economic development, it comes as no surprise that a lack of community is costly. Not only is it detrimental to the people affected, it has significant costs for the public purse. That’s why we welcome recent research by The Eden project and The Big Lunch which demonstrates just how much this lack is costing Scotland - an astonishing £731 million. We are sure that everyone reading this can think of many, many ways that this money could be used to improve people’s lives.
So where does this figure come from? The research shows that social isolation in Scotland costs health services £107 million and policing costs in areas where people are likely to be socially isolated costs £12 million each year. A disconnected community leads to reduced productivity and in Scotland the net cost is calculated to be £252million. These are big sums in themselves but combined, well it speaks for itself.
Saying this, it’s not all doom and gloom. We know that productivity increases when the workforce is happier and healthier, estimated to create a net gain of £352 million. It is also estimated that neighbourliness saves the economy £593 million every year as people share resources so using them more efficiently. Recognising all of this, The Scottish Government has prioritised loneliness and isolation alongside poverty and poor housing on the public health agenda.
The Chief Executive of the Eden Project, Peter Stewart, had this to say:
“There is a lot of existing research suggesting that people feel happier, safer and more content when they live in connected communities and know their neighbours.
“However, this study reveals that the financial benefits to individuals and wider society are enormous too. There are more reasons than ever for communities to come together.
“Getting to know your neighbours through an initiative like the big lunch will bring you joy and happiness, and will also save yours and the UK’s money.”
Check out the full report here: