We’re not so sweet on our neighbours

AXA's Community Challenge reveals 22 million Brits steer clear of neighbours and prefer to drive to shops for sugar

27 March 2010

Posted in Financial results

  • Half of Brits drive to the shops for a cup of sugar rather than borrow from a neighbour
  • We're emotionally distant from next door - one in four don't even know neighbours' names
  • One in six feel the recession is to blame
  • However, half of us feel living in a community is important
  • AXA and Neighbourhood Watch launch quest to find the nation's number one

Half of Brits would rather drive to the shops than ask a neighbour for a cup of sugar, a survey from AXA Home Insurance reveals1.

It seems some of us will go to great lengths to avoid speaking to our neighbours these days. While previous generations wouldn't have thought twice about popping next door if they'd forgotten something off their weekly shop, today 22 million of us prefer to get in the car2.

That's why AXA Home Insurance is today launching a nationwide search to rekindle the nation's lost community spirit. With the support of Neighbourhood Watch, the UK-wide community association, AXA's Community Challenge will find the best community in Britain - and that community will win AXA's support to help turn a local project into a reality.

Emotionally distant

Research commissioned by AXA Home Insurance into the state of community spirit has found that we are now so emotionally distant from our neighbours that only a quarter of us (23%) know our neighbours' names and one in 10 (10%) of us admit we've never helped a neighbour as we don't know them or would not feel comfortable doing so.

Seven in 10 of us don't socialise with our neighbours, and rather than popping next door for a friendly cuppa when someone moves in, more than one in five of us (22%) can't even bring ourselves to say hello on the street.

Everybody needs good neighbours

Despite this, one in two (50%) admit that a neighbour's willingness to help others gives a sense of community, with half of us (51%) acknowledging that a community is important (rising in importance as we age, peaking as we hit retirement age). In fact, for seven in 10 (69%), the key benefit of living in a community is friendliness, closely followed by helpfulness (60%).

Also crucial for most of us is the fact that living in a community makes us feel safer (59%): while most of us (85%) feel safe in our area during the day, by the time darkness falls, one in five of us feel wary.

However, few are involved with community groups. Whilst church and Neighbourhood Watch are the most popular initiatives to join, followed by charity groups, 73% do not give up their spare time to help with community initiatives at all.

Recession bites

But it's not all down to us: the survey shows what a major impact the recession has had on people's sense of community, with 15% saying it has made things worse and one in nine (11%) blaming it for creating a 'think of yourself' culture.

While almost half (46%) cite local shops as being key for shaping a community, almost a third (30%) have seen their local independent shops close, 44% have noticed a rise in unemployment, while 16% say they have seen a rise in crime levels.

Amanda Edwards of AXA Home Insurance said, “It's worrying to see how few of us can turn to a neighbour for even a cup of sugar these days. However, it seems that it's not that we don't like them; it's more that so many of us simply don't get to know our neighbours anymore, so would naturally feel awkward about asking for something.

“That said, belonging to a community is still important for half of us which is why we at AXA Home Insurance have teamed up with Neighbourhood Watch to launch our search to find Britain's Best Community.”

Benefits of community living

Top things that make a community

1. Friendliness

1. Local park

2. Helpfulness

2. Neighbours' willingness to help others

3. Feel safer

3. Local independent shops

4. Sense of belonging

4. Good local pub/restaurant/cafes

5. Trustworthiness

5. Library

6. Togetherness

6. Local school

7. Loyalty

7. Local market/farmers' market

8. House prices

8. Good public transport links

Roy Rudham, Chairman of the United Kingdom Neighbourhood Watch Trust (UKNWT), added “It's the simple things that make a community a great place to live: good amenities, schools, and transport, and especially people. When you have neighbours looking out for one another, the place you live automatically becomes friendlier, safer, and transforms an area into a place you feel truly at home. We're looking forward to finding out which of Britain's communities combines all of these attributes and calls itself the best.”

1 The research was completed by OnePoll in March 2010 amongst 2,000 UK adults

2 45% of 49 million adults (16 and over) = 22 million. The Office of National Statistics states that as of mid-2008, the UK population was 61.4million; of that, the adult population was four-fifths.