You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family or neighbors. But what if your neighbors held the key to a longer, healthier life?
Neighborhoods, like organizations (and/or families), have a culture. Yes, every neighborhood has “that neighbor” who is a recluse or has a personality style that ensures others avoid him/her.
But a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that having good neighbors may reduce your heart attack risk. But since we can’t choose “good” neighbors, we can influence neighbors’ behaviors.
The participants evaluated how much they felt like they were part of their neighborhood, if their neighbors were friendly and would help them if they got into difficulty, and if they trusted most of their neighbors. Collectively, this is known as neighborhood social cohesion. The study suggested that close-knit neighborhoods encourage others in the neighborhood to also display cohesive behaviors. They may also go a long way in helping prevent antisocial behaviors. It’s always more difficult to behave poorly, inconsiderately, or indifferently towards people we know and care about. This is part of the culture factor I call connectedness. It is part of the human desire to connect with others and belong to something larger than ourselves.
People who reported higher levels of neighborhood social cohesion were less likely to suffer a heart attack, the study found. Specifically, a single unit increase in neighborhood social cohesion was associated with a 17 percent reduced risk of heart attack. These results support other studies that found have also found a connection between living in good neighborhoods and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
Many studies have linked increased quality and longevity of life to social support. It appears that the social support referred to in this study as social cohesion is an additional component, beyond the social culture of friends and family, that can lend itself to additional health and well being.
This means we have the ability and opportunity to create a culture in our neighborhood that can not only improve and support our health and well being, but also the health and well being of those who are connected to us.
Keep cultivating your culture!