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Belonging to a team boosts mental health

Brits who are part of a team are 24 per cent more likely to report they are happy, with an even more pronounced boost (+80%) among disabled people

  • Access to teams, organisations and communities could help people build better support networks – particularly for marginalised groups as 23% of people with a disability said that being part of a team helped them to feel more confident
  • But barriers to participation still leave many isolated, with more than half of the population saying they have felt ‘excluded’ in the past year – rising to three in four disabled people
  • Bupa and ParalympicsGB launch #TeamHealth campaign to encourage wider access to teams and societies

Being part of a team or society boosts your happiness and mental health – with a particularly positive effect on those with a disability.

This is according to new research from leading health provider Bupa, which found that people who are part of a team – such as work teams, sports teams, clubs based on hobbies and interests, online communities, religious or community groups – are 24 per cent more likely than average to report that they are happy. This rises to an 80 per cent boost among disabled people in a team, who are also 33% more likely to say their mental health is good.

For those who are part of at least one team or society, mental health benefits include feeling happier (30%) and more confident (26%). The sense of belonging leads to people feeling more included in society (36%), sociable (35%) and valued (34%).

People also say that being included in a team means they have a better support network (22%) and more than one in 10 (13%) credit being part of a team with getting through a hard time in their life. While for some it means they’re more likely to achieve their health and fitness goals.

But not everyone feels part of a team. More than two in five Brits (44%) aren’t involved in groups or clubs. This is against a backdrop of high levels of isolation in the UK, with 58 per cent of the population saying they have felt ‘excluded’ in the past year.

Access to teams and clubs is particularly important among marginalised groups. Generally, people with a disability are almost twice as likely to report poor mental health than the wider population, and almost three in four (72%) say they have felt excluded in the last year, including at work, in the community, or going about daily life.

As a result, almost half of disabled people (46%) say they are now isolated, leading to high levels of loneliness, anxiety and sadness.

As part of Bupa’s partnership with ParalympicsGB, Bupa is calling for greater inclusion in society, at work and in sport, and is highlighting the importance of being included in a group or team to support better physical and mental health and reach personal goals.

Dr Naomi Humber continues by sharing the many health benefits of being part of a team:

  1. Creating a support network: Being part of a team at work or within aspects of our personal lives offers a valuable support network to help you navigate life’s challenges. When faced with difficulties, having a group of individuals who share common goals and experiences can provide encouragement, guidance, and emotional support. This sense of belonging reduces feelings of isolation and strengthens your overall mental wellbeing.
  2. Relieving stress and improving mental health: Collaborating within a team allows for the distribution of responsibilities, enabling everyone to share the load and prevent excessive stress or burnout. Sharing the burden makes it more manageable, frees up mental space and promotes better stress management. This can lead to improved physical health by reducing the negative impact of chronic stress on the body.
  3. Building meaningful connections: Being part of a group based on similar interests, hobbies, religion or working towards the same goal often provide opportunities to make meaningful connections and form lasting friendships. Social connections are vital for our wellbeing, contributing to feelings of happiness and fulfilment. Engaging with others who share common interests fosters a sense of camaraderie, boosts self-esteem, and creates a positive social support system, which is crucial for maintaining good mental health.
  4. Enhancing self-confidence and personal growth: Working collaboratively within a team environment allows individuals to develop and showcase their skills. By contributing to shared goals and witnessing the positive impact of their efforts, everyone can experience a shared sense of accomplishment, which enhances self-confidence and self-worth. This personal growth promotes a positive mindset and can lead to improved mental health outcomes.
  5. Encouraging regular physical activity: Many team-based activities involve movement, exercise, or sports, which can benefit both physical and mental health. Regular physical activity releases endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones, which elevate mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Being part of a team provides motivation and accountability, making it easier to maintain an active lifestyle and reap the rewards of improved physical wellbeing.
  6. Maintaining cognitive health and functioning: Social interaction and engagement has been linked to preserved cognitive functioning in later life. Social networks can vary in size and in composition, and being part of different groups flexes those cognitive muscles and keeps our brains active which benefits us as we age.

Paralympic Gold medallist Richard Whitehead MBE says: “Being part of a team has been really important for me in reaching my sporting and professional goals. Everyone needs a strong team in their corner, whether in their professional or personal lives, and deserves to feel included.

“I know from personal experience that feeling excluded is very harmful, both in terms of mental health and preventing people from reaching their potential. And although we’re making progress, it’s not always as easy for disabled people at school, work or in the community, which is why equal opportunities for everyone to be part of a team and feel a sense of belonging is so important.

“Through raising awareness of the impact of exclusion and the importance of being part of a supportive team, we can continue to make progress in creating a more inclusive society.”

Dr Naomi Humber, head of mental wellbeing at Bupa, says: “Being part of a community or team with common interests or goals has a remarkable positive impact on both physical and mental health. Group participation and inclusion promotes a sense of belonging and social connection, creating a supportive environment that encourages healthy behaviours and motivates individuals to achieve their personal, professional and health goals.”

As part of Bupa’s #TeamHealth campaign, Bupa colleague, Julie Vivash, will be taking control of her physical and mental wellbeing over the next year, with the support of a well-rounded team, including Richard Whitehead MBE, colleagues and friends and family members. Julie says: “I have never prioritised my own health and wellbeing as I am normally busy looking after everyone else but now my husband, children, family, friends and colleagues are all in my corner as I start on my health and wellness journey.”

Find out more about Bupa’s new #TeamHealth campaign here.

Together, the social connections, support network, shared responsibilities, and opportunities for personal growth that come with teamwork all contribute to a healthier you.

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