Trusting Your Neighbor Linked To Better Health: Study

Getting friendly with your neighbors has more benefits than being able to borrow a cup of sugar -- it could even improve your health. A new study from the University of Missouri found an association between trusting one's neighbors and better self-reported health. The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

In the study, Eileen Bjornstrom, an assistant professor of sociology at the University Of Missouri's College of Arts and Science, examined households in the 2001 Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. She found that people with higher income levels than their neighbors were more likely to not trust them. At the same time, people who said they did trust their neighbors reported better health on average, after taking into account factors such as income levels, education and age.

"(If you feel) that you are below another person financially, it leads to stress and negative emotions such as shame, hostility and distrust, and ... health suffers as a consequence. While most people aren't aware of how trust impacts them, results indicated that trust was a factor in a person's overall health," said Bjornstrom.

Bjorstorm suggested that improving shared community resources such as sidewalks and parks could possibly help to encourage neighbor interaction. This in turn could then possibly lead to improved overall health.

An earlier study conducted at the Arizona State University found that education also plays a role in the way neighbors feel about one another. It found that communities where people had reached higher education levels were more likely to feel connected to their neighbors. The University of Missouri research suggests, then, that aiming for higher education may also positively impact our health.

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