Loneliness NZ

The measurement of social connectedness and its relationship to wellbeing


Dr Margreet Frieling, Eric Krassoi Peach & Jacinta Cording

Author affiliation



Ministry of Social Development, Online 978-1-98-854135-8


The Ministry of Social Development commissioned this paper to serve as a foundation for future work exploring how social connectedness affects resilience and wellbeing for New Zealanders and how the development and effectiveness of these networks might be supported by government action. The paper provides a literature review of social connectedness and its relation to wellbeing, with recommended measures of social connectedness.


The paper identifies three core elements of social connectedness: socialising, social support, and sense of belonging - with loneliness part of the latter. "The exact way in which social connectedness influences wellbeing depends on additional factors such as the social norms in one’s network, the strength of one’s social identity, and one’s personality type."


There should be primary, secondary, and tertiary indicators for the three components of social connectedness. "The primary indicators are limited in number and enable high-level monitoring of levels of social connectedness within and across groups in society." One of the recommended primary indicators is frequency of feeling lonely, which is measured in the biannual General Social Survey.

“Most of the measurement of people’s sense of belonging focuses on the deficit end of the spectrum, that is, on feelings of loneliness. A lot of people feel lonely some of the time, therefore at-risk groups are often defined based on feeling lonely ‘most’ or ‘all of the time’. “