Having good neighbors may reduce your heart attack risk, new research suggests.
The study included more than 5,000 U.S. adults, average age 70, who were followed for four years. Sixty-two percent were married, and nearly two-thirds were women.
The participants were asked to rate 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.
During the four years of follow-up, 148 (66 women and 82 men) had a heart attack. People who had 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, according to the findings published online Aug. 18 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
The reduced heart attack risk associated with higher levels of perceived neighborhood social cohesion remained even after the researchers took other factors into account.
The results support other studies that found a connection between living in good neighborhoods and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. However, while the study found an association between the two, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
"Perceived neighborhood social cohesion could be a type of social support that is available in the neighborhood social environment outside the realm of family and friends," Eric Kim, from the department of psychology at the University of Michigan, and colleagues wrote.
The findings suggest that tight-knit neighborhoods may help encourage so-called cohesive behaviors and help prevent antisocial behaviors, the authors said in a journal news release.