Peer-support groups improve quality of life among older people

Evidence suggests that peer-support groups can help to increase social connectedness among older people, thus improving their quality of life | Mental Health Foundation

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Given that 3.6 million older people live alone in the UK (Age UK. 2018), and the associated health risks of these conditions, such as increased mortality and declining cognitive function, there is a need to further investigate the impact of peer-support groups on the health and wellbeing of older people. The Mental Health Foundation’s Standing Together project was set up to address this through facilitated peer support and activity-based groups.


This evaluation sought to understand whether the Standing Together (ST) peer-support groups, which took place between 2015 and 2017, impacted on outcomes related to: lonlieness and social isolation; emotional wellbeing; and meaningful activity.

Findings from the focus groups demonstrated that most participants felt that the groups helped to:

  • combat loneliness by strengthening a feeling of social connectedness and belonging
  • improve wellbeing through discussion among peers and the presence of a kind, caring facilitator
  • provide meaningful, stimulating activities around people with whom they felt comfortable.

Full document: An evaluation of the Standing Together project | Mental Health Foundation


Public Health England recommends a community-based approach to health and wellbeing

Public Health England | Health matters: community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing

New guidance from Public Health England (PHE) focuses on community centred approaches to health and wellbeing, outlining to professionals how to create the conditions for community assets to thrive. 

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PHE’s guidance includes successful interventions and case studies from across England.

As well as having health needs, all communities have health assets that can contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of its members, including:

  • the skills, knowledge, social competence and commitment of individual community members
  • friendships, inter-generational solidarity, community cohesion and neighbourliness
  • local groups and community and voluntary associations, ranging from formal organisations to informal, mutual aid networks such as babysitting circles
  • physical, environmental and economic resources assets brought by external agencies including the public, private and third sector

Community-centred ways of working are important for all aspects of public health, including health improvement, health protection and healthcare public health. It’s not about expecting communities to do more and saving public money but about investing in more sustainable and effective approaches to reduce health inequalities.

The guidance outlines a range of community-centred approaches: strengthening communities, the role of peers and volunteers, collaboration and partnerships with communities and local services and improving access to community resources.

The guidance can be read in full at PHE  

The impact of lack of sleep

Is lack of sleep affecting your work? In this Public Health Matters blog, Justin Varney explores the relationship between sleep and physical and mental health


Key facts:

  • The annual cost of sleep loss to the UK is £30 billion
  • 200,000 working days lost in the UK each year due to insufficient sleep
  • 1 in 3 people in the UK are affected by insomnia

There is a strong relationship between sleep and physical and mental health and not getting enough sleep has a profound impact on our ability to function. If it develops into a pattern, the cumulative impact is significant.

Links between a lack of sleep and high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are emerging. It also makes us more vulnerable to infection and raises the risk of accident and injury.  Sleep is not just critical to recovery, it essential for maintaining cognitive skills such as communicating well, remembering key information and being creative and flexible in thought.

A new sleep toolkit recommends that businesses create an understanding environment, where employees can be open with their managers about any sleep-related issues that are hampering them at work. That way line managers and employees can identify the risks to health and wellbeing in the workplace and gather the right information to help  put plans in place to manage risks.

The new sleep toolkit takes businesses through this process, with information on the importance of sleep, the business case for good sleep and actions which address the causes of sleep deprivation in employees.

Read more at Public Health Matters

Download the full document: Sleep and recovery: a toolkit for employers

Improving the wellbeing of young people

This report highlights associations between health behaviours, other self-rated life factors (such as bullying and body image) and wellbeing | Public Health England


The 2014 What About YOUth? (WAY) survey included measures of wellbeing which can be analysed to examine the relationships between health behaviours and attitudes on the wellbeing of 15-year-olds.

This report highlights 4 main findings:

  1. Young people who engaged in behaviour which might harm their health such as drinking and smoking, having poor diet or exercising rarely, or who had negative feelings towards their body size reported lower wellbeing than those who did not.
  2. Self-reported wellbeing varied depending on the relative affluence or deprivation of the family, with those whose families were in more affluent groups and living in the least deprived areas reporting higher average wellbeing.
  3. Young people who stated that they had a disability, long-term illness or medical condition reported lower wellbeing than those who did not.
  4. Young people who described their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual or ‘other’ were more likely to have lower wellbeing than those who declared themselves heterosexual. On average these young people also reported lower life satisfaction and happiness, and higher anxiety.

Commissioners and providers of health, social care and education can use this information to target local resources where they are likely to have most impact in terms of improving the wellbeing of young people.

Full document: The wellbeing of 15-year-olds: analysis of the What About YOUth? survey

PHE launches Rise Above for Schools programme

New schools programme to equip young people with coping strategies for modern life | PHE

Image source: VFS Digital Design – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Dynamic new resources for teachers will help build crucial life-skills for young people to boost their resilience and improve their mental health and wellbeing, as part of a new evidence-based programme for schools unveiled by Public Health England (PHE).

With around 1 in 5 young people experiencing cyberbullying and 1 in 3 reporting that their body was “too fat”, pupils aged between 11 and 16 will be taught how to cope with some of modern life’s most challenging issues, equipping young people with resilience skills that will help them throughout adulthood.

PHE has developed a series of new resources for secondary school teachers to use in their lesson plans as part of the Rise Above for Schools programme. The resources will help teachers to engage pupils with coping strategies about ‘traditional’ health issues, like smoking and alcohol, while also addressing some of the most challenging pressures young people face today in an ‘always on’ social media generation.

Read the full press release here

Does Access to Green Space Impact the Mental Well-being of Children

An increasing body of research is showing associations between green space and overall health. Children are spending more time indoors while pediatric mental and behavioral health problems are increasing | Journal of Pediatric Nursing


A systematic review of the literature was done to examine the association between access to green space and the mental well-being of children.

Twelve articles relating to green space and the mental well-being of children were reviewed. Three articles outside the date criteria were included as they are cited often in the literature as important early research on this topic.

Access to green space was associated with improved mental well-being, overall health and cognitive development of children. It promotes attention restoration, memory, competence, supportive social groups, self-discipline, moderates stress, improves behaviors and symptoms of ADHD and was even associated with higher standardized test scores.

Full reference: McCormick, R. (2017) Does Access to Green Space Impact the Mental Well-being of Children: A Systematic Review. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. Published online: 4 September 2017

Local wellbeing indicators

Happy City and What Works Wellbeing, 2017

Happy City and What Works Wellbeing have published Understanding local needs for wellbeing data: measures and indicators. 

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Source: Happy City and What Works Wellbeing

This report presents a new Local Wellbeing Indicator set for local authorities, public health leaders and Health & Wellbeing boards. The indicators use existing data and research to provide a picture of local residents’ lives and community wellbeing. The indicators look at personal relationships, economics, education, childhood equality and health and offer a picture of what affects communities as opposed to traditional metrics.