4159.0 - General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/09/2011   
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Contents >> Social networks, support and trust >> Social networks, support and trust


Social networks

Relationships and networks are at the core of society and are essential to individual wellbeing. People are linked together with family and friends, and in wider communities characterised by shared interests, sympathies or living circumstances. Individuals may also form looser networks with people encountered through various activities and life situations. A person's networks may be concentrated in a local area, or be more dispersed and sustained by travel and communications systems. There is a growing exploration of the ways in which social networks may contribute to positive outcomes both for individuals, in areas such as health and employment, and for communities in broader opportunities for participation and safer environments.

In the 2010 GSS, 20% of people aged 18 years and over reported having daily face-to-face contact with family and friends with whom they did not live, and 79% reported having weekly face-to-face contact. There was little difference between age groups in the proportions who had weekly face-to-face contact but for daily contact, people either under 35 or over 85 years of age were more likely than other age groups to have face-to-face contact (table 2).

5.1 Daily face to face contact, with family or friends living outside the household
Graph: 5.1 Daily face to face contact, with family or friends living outside the household

In 2010 97% of adults had had some form of contact with family or friends living outside their household in the week prior to the survey (table 1). Over a 3 month period, most people used a combination of methods to contact family and friends. The proportion of people using fixed phones for contacting friends and family dropped from 91% in 2006 to 83% in 2010, while mobile phone/SMS use for such contact increased from 77% to 84%. Use of Internet services, such as email and chat rooms, as a method of contact with family and friends increased from 47% in 2006 to 60% in 2010 while the use of postal services for maintaining such contact has fallen from 31% to 24% (table 33). The most common methods used to contact family and friends varied depending on age, with mobile phone and Internet the most common contact method used by younger age groups and fixed phone predominantly used by age groups older than 45-54 years (graph 5.2).

5.2 Type of contact with family and friends, by age
Graph: 5.2 Type of contact with family and friends, by age

In 2010 the levels of social attachment, as measured by weekly contact (in all its forms) with family and friends, or by the ability to either ask for small favours or to get support in a time of crisis, were similar to the levels reported in 2002 and 2006. Most (93%) adults reported being able to ask people outside of their household for small favours, such as looking after pets, collecting mail, watering gardens, minding a child for a brief period, or borrowing equipment. Similarly, most people (94%) reported that, in a time of crisis, they could get support from outside their household (table 1).

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