Social environment and social isolation
Social contacts and social isolation are frequently related to people’s living conditions. The social environment plays a key role in people’s social lives, but it can vary from person to person. This may have to do with demographic factors such as age or marital status, or with societal factors such as work, income or education. Still, it appears that the significance of social life depends more on one’s lifestyle and opinions about the social environment. It involves the extent to which residents identify with their neighbourhood, the significance they attach to neighbourly contacts, and the extent to which they believe it is a matter of homogeneous beliefs that affect the essence of living together agreeably (Rigers and Lavrakas, 1981; Hortulanus et al., 1997, 2001a). One resident may see the neighbourhood as a temporary residence or a situation one has to accept, another may prefer to stay in the neighbourhood for as long as possible. Some people like to interact with neighbours, others do not. Many prefer to live amid like-minded people while others do not mind if people of all sorts live in the neighbourhood. It is evident that the social environment can have a different significance for people. The literature identifies four important meanings of neighbourhoods, all of which may contribute to the resident’s involvement with their neighbourhood (Hortulanus et al., 1997).