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* 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.
The most common teams that people belong to are work teams, with 21% of people saying they belong to one.
For those who are part of a team, 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 one in four people (27%) say they’ve felt excluded at work 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 at work, in society and in sport, and is highlighting the importance of being included in a team to support better physical and mental health.
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.”
Dr Naomi Humber continues by sharing the many health benefits of being part of a team at work:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Together, the social connections, support network, shared responsibilities, and opportunities for personal growth that come with teamwork all contribute to a healthier you.