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Perhaps one of the most important positive consequences of belonging to a community is the betterment of our collective wellbeing. There has been much research conducted regarding how the involvement of individuals in communities has affected wellbeing. Wiking (2017) cited that the World Happiness Report found that ‘‘the happiest countries have a strong sense of community, and that the happiest people have someone they can rely on in times of need’’. A result of this would be increased happiness and fewer feelings of loneliness. Simply belonging to a community can reinforce our wellbeing and mental health. Poor mental health is, at the moment, a large issue in our society. Feelings of anxiety or depression are increasingly widespread. If those impacted by these mental health issues could find a community, these feelings could be replaced with those of happiness and security. Indeed, ‘‘the happiest people have someone they can rely on in times of need’’.
The importance of community is further illustrated by the multitude of health benefits one experiences when belonging to a community. There have been numerous studies that have come to this conclusion. One very important finding was found by the World Health Organisation (2012), which observed that ’’the medical literature has found high correlations between various low wellbeing scores and subsequent coronary heart disease, strokes and length of life’’. This is quite remarkable. Not only, as might be expected, does belonging to a community increase general happiness, it also significantly improves the health of those who are part of this community. This provides us with a fantastic opportunity. As a society, ensuring that as many individuals as possible are immersed in communities, health issues could severely diminish, resulting in both a happier and healthier population.
Despite the clear and profound benefits of thriving mental and physical health, belonging to a community has the potential for some negative consequences. Of course, this can be quite rare, yet still important to address. Belonging to a community can limit one’s freedom. There are always roles for people to play within a community, but these roles can restrict the amount of freedom community members have. The responsibilities one has within a community can require them to sacrifice their own time and money for the benefit of the community as a whole. This can be viewed as both a positive and a negative. The community will benefit greatly from the time its members invest in it, however, at the same time, those very members could possess negative feelings regarding this investment they must make. A long-term effect of this could be a divide in society. There may be groups that believe community comes first, and that personal advancement is secondary. Conversely, other groups could hold the belief that personal advancement takes precedence over all else. This results in a societal divide.
Ultimately, arguments for the importance of community are very strong. Organisations such as the World Health Organisation or the Happiness Research Institute have concluded that the positive consequences one experiences from belonging to a community, such as better wellbeing and increased physical health, are extremely important in living fulfilling lives. Belonging to a community is one of the most important things one could do to ameliorate both their mental and physical selves. Consider no longer living in a vast universe with feelings of loneliness and lack of happiness running rampant. Consider a world where everyone is part of a community, and we are all experiencing the benefits of better wellbeing and increased health. Despite the potential for a lack of freedom, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Belonging to a community is the most important thing people could do for both themselves and our society.