Willingness to support neighbours practically or emotionally: a cross-sectional survey among the general public

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Abstract

Background: Wider social networks are increasingly recognized for supporting people with care needs. Health-promoting initiatives around the end of life aim to foster these social connections but currently provide little insight into how willing people are to help neighbours facing support needs.

Objectives: This study describes how willing people are to help neighbours who need support practically or emotionally, whether there is a difference in willingness depending on the type of support needed and what determines this willingness.

Design: We applied a cross-sectional survey design.

Methods: We distributed 4400 questionnaires to a random sample of people aged >15 across four municipalities in Flanders, Belgium. These surveys included attitudinal and experiential questions related to serious illness, caregiving and dying. Respondents rated their willingness (scale of 1-5) to provide support to different neighbours in hypothetical scenarios: (1) an older person in need of assistance and (2) a caregiver of a dying partner.

Results: A total of 2008 questionnaires were returned (45.6%). The average willingness to support neighbours was 3.41 (case 1) and 3.85 (case 2). Helping with groceries scored highest; cooking and keeping company scored lowest. Factors associated with higher willingness included an optimistic outlook about receiving support from others, family caregiving experience and prior volunteering around serious illness or dying.

Conclusion: People are generally willing to support their neighbours who need help practically or emotionally, especially when they have prior experience with illness, death or dying and when they felt supported by different groups of people. Community-based models that build support around people with care needs could explore to what extent this willingness translates into durable community support. Initiatives promoting social connection and cohesion around serious illness, caregiving and dying may harness this potential through experiential learning.

Keywords: community involvement; end of life; experiential learning; family care; new public health; social capital.
Original languageEnglish
Article number26323524241249196
Number of pages14
JournalPalliative Care and Social Practice
Volume18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all people who contributed in some way to the questionnaire\u2019s development. The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: This research is part of the programme \u2018CAPACITY: Flanders Programme to Develop Capacity in Palliative Care Across Society\u2019, a collaboration between the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ghent University, and the Catholic University Leuven, Belgium. This study is supported by a grant from the Research Foundation \u2013 Flanders, file number S002219N.

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: This research is part of the programme \u2018CAPACITY: Flanders Programme to Develop Capacity in Palliative Care Across Society\u2019, a collaboration between the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ghent University, and the Catholic University Leuven, Belgium. This study is supported by a grant from the Research Foundation \u2013 Flanders, file number S002219N.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2024.

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