And now a groundbreaking new study – the first of its kind in Scotland – aims to measure the benefits of good social connections in communities across Dumfries and Galloway.
The aim is to identify what activities and groups are already in place, what works well and where improvements are needed.
As part of the project a survey will this week be sent to 2000 people chosen at random from across the region.
Public health professional Paul Southworth is appealing for everyone who receives it to fill it in and send it back. He said: “I know surveys don’t sound very interesting or important, but the results of this one will help us plan the future of public health in this area.
“Historically we have been good at measuring people’s physical and mental health so we can put appropriate support in place where it’s needed. Measuring the social side of health, known as social capital, will show us how friends and family groups, community organisations and wider social activity help promote positive mental and physical wellbeing.
“There is strong evidence that friendships, good social connections and supportive networks have a powerful positive impact on health and that loneliness and social isolation are major risk factors for poor health.”
Paul added: “We know there are some brilliant groups and activities in the region working to develop social capital. The Men’s Sheds, Beat the Street and the Inkspirations writing group are just three examples of the way communities pull together to support people and help them develop their talents.
“The survey will give us a clear picture of all the examples of how people in Dumfries and Galloway are building their own social capital so if you get one please fill it in and send it back to us. The information you provide is an important part of how we will plan for the future.”