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Good neighbors, friendly local community may curb heart attack risk

Date:
August 18, 2014
Source:
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:
Having good neighbors and feeling connected to others in the local community may help to curb an individual's heart attack risk, concludes research. "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," authors write. And tight-knit local communities may help to reinforce and 'incentivize' certain types of cohesive behaviours and so exclude antisocial behaviours, they suggest.
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Current evidence suggests that the characteristics of an area in which a person lives can negatively affect their cardiovascular health. This includes, for example, the density of fast food outlets; levels of violence, noise, and pollution; drug use; and building disrepair.

But few studies have looked at the potential health enhancing effects of positive local neighborhood characteristics, such as perceived neighborhood social cohesion, say the authors.

They therefore tracked the cardiovascular health of over 5000 US adults with no known heart problems over a period of four years, starting in 2006. Their average age was 70, and almost two thirds were women and married (62%).

All the study participants were taking part in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative study of American adults over the age of 50, who are surveyed every two years.

In 2006 participants were asked to score on a validated seven point scale how much they felt part of their local neighborhood; if they felt they had neighbors who would help them if they got into difficulty; whether they trusted most people in the area; and felt they were friendly.

Potentially influential factors, such as age, race, gender, income, marital status, educational attainment, outlook and attitude, social integration, mental health, lifestyle, weight, and underlying health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, were all taken into account.

During the four year monitoring period, 148 of the 5276 participants (66 women and 82 men) had a heart attack.

Analysis of the data showed that each standard deviation increase in perceived neighborhood social cohesion was associated with a 22% reduced risk of a heart attack. Put another way, on the seven-point scale, each unit increase in neighborhood social cohesion was associated with a 17% reduced risk of heart attack.

This association held true even after adjusting for relevant sociodemographic, behavioural, biological, and psychosocial factors, as well as individual-level social support.

The researchers say their findings echo those of other studies which have found a link between well integrated local neighborhoods and lower stroke and heart disease risk.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the researchers admit that some potentially important risk factors, such as family history of heart disease/stroke and genetic influences were not known. But a strong social support network of friends and family has been linked to better health, so friendly neighborhoods might be an extension of that, they say.

"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," they write.

And tight-knit local communities may help to reinforce and 'incentivize' certain types of cohesive behaviours and so exclude antisocial behaviours, they suggest.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Good neighbors, friendly local community may curb heart attack risk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818192635.htm>.
BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2014, August 18). Good neighbors, friendly local community may curb heart attack risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818192635.htm
BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Good neighbors, friendly local community may curb heart attack risk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818192635.htm (accessed July 28, 2015).

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