Average Brit has more than 50 faceless friends

10 February 2017

The average Brit has 136 Facebook friends but 40 per cent of people see none of them on a weekly basis, according to a new study published today (10 February) by the Co-op.

The revealing snap shot of community life in the UK shows that just six per cent meet up with one virtual friend a week while just over one in ten (11 per cent) touch base with two.

However, it is not only in the virtual world where people are feeling isolated. The report shows that almost four out of ten (37 per cent) admit to having no neighbours they consider to be friends and just over one in five (21 per cent) have no one nearby that they could depend on for a favour.

The research, conducted among 2,000 adults across the UK, shows that on average Brits can call on 2.6 neighbours for help.

However, in most cases the relationship is at a minimum level with a parcel delivery now far and away the main reason someone would call on the person next door for a favour.

Seven out of ten (72 per cent) say they would ask a neighbour to accept a package. Only a third of the Brits interviewed (32 per cent) are prepared to borrow a tool or would request a cup of sugar (30 per cent).

Rufus Olins, Chief Membership Officer at the Co-op, said:

“It feels that whilst we have invested heavily in creating virtual connections we have ignored our human relationships.

“We may have plenty of social media friends but having neighbours that you can turn to, whether that’s to take in a parcel, borrow some milk or just for a chat, is so important. We all want to feel part of a community and know that someone is there to help a hand.

“This research shows that we have much to do to improve our neighbourly spirit and foster that sense of community and at the Co-op we want to do our bit as we champion a better way of doing business.

“The Co-op is back and our members and our communities are once again at the heart of all we do.

Christine Webber, psychotherapist and health writer said:

“Many of us are having less and less actual contact with those who matter to us, and – as a result - are missing out on the health benefits that friendship can provide.

“Scientific research has demonstrated that a strong social network gives us some protection against illness. The theory is that when we are in close proximity with those we like and love, we increase the levels of ‘bonding hormone’ oxytocin in our bloodstreams.

“The fact is that good levels of oxytocin counteract harmful stress chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, in our bodies. This boost only occurs when we meet other individuals for real, as opposed to online.”

The research coincides with the Co-op’s campaign to attract one million new members following the launch of its new membership proposition last year which rewards members and their communities for trading with the Co-op.

The Co-op launched its community-focused member offer in September last year, with members and their communities rewarded every time they buy own brand products or services. Members receive a five per cent reward with a further one per cent directly benefiting local charities, according to the terms of the new scheme.

Since the launch of the new scheme around £3m has been raised for more than 4,000 good causes across the country.

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