'Won't You Be My Neighbor?' Building a Community in Your 'Hood is Good for Everyone

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A nice neighborhood.

Do you know you neighbors? And I don’t mean you know them in the sense, like, “Sure. There’s the one guy with the scraggly mustache, and the older woman with the dogs.” I mean do you really know them? If not, you may want to bake a big batch of pumpkin cookies and go introduce yourself right now, because building a community in your neighborhood can help your health.

According to the Atlantic, people who know and trust neighbors are less likely to have heart attacks. Now, that’s some heartwarming news (yuk, yuk). The research comes out of the University of Michigan.

While it’s not new news that social connections within one’s neighborhood is good for the body and mind (those connections promote good mental health and some aspect of physical health), this study charts new territory. Also: The researcher found that when neighbors look out for each other, they are far more likely to be able to notice if someone is having health problems.

Apparently, negative neighborhood factors, such as violence, noise, fast food, and poor air quality can impact a person’s health. And vacant land in a neighborhood (abandoned buildings, etc.) can lead to the breakdown of relationships, and more, which can impact health.

So, are people reaching out and talking to their neighbors, and therefore, enjoying the health benefits that come with being a good neighbor? Err, not really. At least, not many Americans are, according to PBS Newshour. Although the people who are generous -- what the article calls neighborly generosity -- tend to enjoy better personal well-being, 13 percent of Americans said they’ve never had friends over to their own home. What’s more surprising is that 34 percent have never even watched house or property for a friend. Yowza!

Now, I know not everyone has the best neighbors in the world (heck, I don’t know any of my neighbor’s first names), but I think we all could stand to reach out and try building a community where we live. Those relationships, as research proves, can’t hurt!

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Image: Johnny Ainsworth

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