Are good neighbours really life-savers?

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“Having good neighbours can help cut heart attack risk,” reports The Independent.

The paper reports on a nationally representative US study of over 5,000 adults over the age of 50.

People were asked about how they rated their neighbourhood social cohesion, then followed up for four years to see if they had a heart attack.

Social cohesion refers to how “neighbourly” people feel, and relates to feelings of security, connection to the area and trust of inhabitants. In this study, social cohesion was assessed by asking people how much they agreed with simple statements such as “people in this area are friendly” and “people in this area can be trusted”.

The study found that higher social cohesion was associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.

However, the association became non-significant (could have been the result of chance) once the researchers adjusted for all factors known to be associated with heart attack risk, such as smoking history, exercise and body mass index (BMI).

This makes it more difficult to draw any meaningful interpretation from these results. It’s likely that any link between the risk of a heart attack and perceived social cohesion is being influenced by a varied mix of other factors.

While building social connections can bring mental health benefits, relying on your neighbours to cut your risk of a heart attack is probably unwise.

Picture above: Chorlton Good Neighbours

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