How close do you feel to your neighbourhood? With much of our lives having moved online, there is a perception that people have become detached from their local community.
Young people – as the biggest users of the internet and social media – are thought to be most likely to forego conversation in person for their phone or device.
But last year’s Ofcom communications report (PDF, 12,21MB) showed that most people of all ages see the internet as important for maintaining personal relationships, while recognising that it hampers face-to-face communications.
So, is it fair to single young people out, or are we all losing touch with our community?
We have analysed data from the Community Life Survey1 to understand how young people engage with their local area, compared with the rest of the adult population. Take our neighbourhood quiz by drawing your estimates on each chart.
By any of these measures, young people feel less connected to their neighbourhood than older adults.
This is despite many young people having lived locally for all or most of their life. More than half (55%) of 16- to 24-year-olds have lived in their neighbourhood for at least 10 years, compared with 57% of those aged 25 and over.
But it is wrong to say that young people are losing touch with their community. In fact, they feel a greater sense of belonging now compared with a few years ago, while levels of trust and local area satisfaction remain unchanged.
The next part of our quiz looks at how people engage with their community.
Using these measures, it’s clear that young people are as likely to participate in their local community as the rest of the population.
But, despite seeing an improvement since 2013 to 2014, young people are less likely to say they belong to their neighbourhood than older adults.
This could be linked to the fact that young people are more likely to report feelings of loneliness. According to the most recent Community Life Survey (PDF, 725KB), 8% of 16- to 24-year-olds living in England felt lonely “often” or “always” in 2017 to 2018, compared with 5% of those aged 25 and over2.
Research by King’s College London has investigated the possible link between young people’s loneliness and neighbourhood belonging. Their study – based on a sample of 18-year-olds living in the UK – found that “feeling lonely could put a negative bias on people’s subjective perceptions of their local area”, leading them to “miss out on opportunities to connect with people around them”.
- Findings from the Community Life Survey refer to England only in 2017 to 2018. For the purposes of this analysis, “young people” are those aged 16 to 24, while the rest of the population are aged 25 and over.
- The rate of loneliness was 8% among 25- to 34-year-olds in 2017 to 2018, the same as 16- to 24-year-olds. Those age groups were most likely to feel lonely often or always.