Two thirds believe we’re more selfish than 20 years ago

18th December 2014

Research released today by Benenden Health shows that almost half do not consider themselves to be community spirited and only 37 per cent understand what a mutual organisation is.

Consumer society and a desire for material goods have driven society to become more selfish over the past 20 years according to new research. Additionally, the public places the government at the top of the list in holding primary responsibility for taking care of others, this being placed above their own friends and family.

21 per cent of a sample of public surveyed stated that taking care of others is the responsibility of the government, with only 15 per cent placing the responsibility with family and five per cent placing it with friends.

The research, released by mutual healthcare provider Benenden Health and carried out by independent research company One Poll, was conducted to discover society’s level of understanding of mutual organisations and attitudes towards how selfish our society is deemed to be. 2,000 UK adults were surveyed to learn that although 61 per cent believe we are more selfish than 20 years ago, almost half (48 per cent) believe we should all play a role in taking care of each other.

Despite this desire to all care for one another, only 17 per cent are members of a mutual organisation or co-operative, organisations that are built on the premise of helping others.

Marc Bell, Chief Executive of Benenden Health comments, “There is clear lack of understanding from the public of what a mutual or co-operative is, with nearly two thirds (63 per cent) admitting to either not knowing or being unsure as to what an organisation under this description is. However, in contrast to this, previous studies suggest that more than one in three UK citizens are affected by mutuals[1]

Although many believe they do not understand what a mutual is, 60 per cent of those questioned were able to correctly identify the explanation of a mutual / co-op as an organisation owned by employees, service users or customers with an interest in the business. 

Marc Bell adds, “Mutuals are important because they strike a chord with people’s conscience today and facilitate the public’s desire to be part of a more community spirited society. Consumers want to feel trust in the organisations they subscribe to and mutuals offer a transparent and responsible solution.

“However, it’s no wonder trust in mutuals and co-operatives is currently low. A lack of understanding, coupled with recent press stories of the most well known organisation in this field is bound to have a negative impact. It’s fair to say that those who do have an understanding of these types of organisations will often do so through exposure to The Co-operative, a company that has certainly made the headlines in recent years.”

A distinct lack of trust in organisations was noted, with local companies, the government, big brands and banks faring the worst with only 13 per cent, 8 per cent, 7 per cent and 4 per cent stating a trust in these organisations respectively. Higher than this, although still surprisingly low, mutuals and co-operatives were rated the fifth most trusted, of a list of nine types of organisations, with 15 per cent of those questioned stating a trust for these organisations. Surprisingly only 23 per cent of people trust not-for-profit organisations – suggesting these organisations have more work to do to build that trust.

The study also discovered that almost half of respondents (40 per cent) would be more community minded if they had more time and 31 per cent if they had more money.

“We will all recall incidents where strong community spirit comes to the fore, but the essence of community spirit is struggling and, as the results show, we’re in danger of moving towards becoming a more selfish society,” says Marc Bell. “It’s interesting, however, that despite a general belief in society becoming more selfish, people still believe that we should all take responsibility in caring for one another. The results suggest that the public would like to be more community / socially minded but simply do not feel they have either the time or the money.”

Marc Bell concludes, “It’s important that there are still institutions that represent the public’s interests and continue to bring community spirit to life. The public should take an interest in understanding mutual and co-operative organisations, to realise the benefits and community spirited nature these companies can bring them.”

 
 

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