Published October 28, 2015
If the people who live on either side of your house make your blood boil, you might want to seriously consider moving: Friendly neighbors may lower your risk of heart attack, a recent study finds. And the effect is drastic. Folks living in the friendliest neighborhoods reduced their risk by almost 70 percent.
For the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, researchers at the University of Michigan worked with 5,276 men and women over the age of 50 with no history of heart problems. The subjects—who lived in urban, suburban, and rural areas—were asked to use a seven-point psychometric scale to relay how strongly they agreed with these statements about their community:
—"I really feel part of this area."
—"If [I] were in trouble, there are lots of people in this area who would help."
—"Most people in this area can be trusted."
—"Most people in this area are friendly."
A follow-up four years later found that 148 of the subjects had suffered heart attacks. Looking at the results of the initial survey, the researchers found that, on the seven-point scale, each point increase in perceived neighborhood social cohesion reduced the risk of heart attack by 17 percent. Meaning those who agreed the most with the statements had a 67 percent decrease in heart-attack risk. The difference is "approximately comparable to the reduced heart-attack risk of a smoker versus a non-smoker," study co-author Eric Kim tells Agence-France Presse.
How can good neighbors keep your ticker healthy? The study doesn't account for genetic factors and, at this point, only found a correlation (as opposed to causation), but Kim has an explanation: Friendly neighbors may lead to checking in on one another, noticing health problems, sharing doctor information, and more. He's got a point: Other studies find that people with close friends sleep better, get fewer colds, have less stress … the list goes on. Our point: The science adds up, make some friends.