Is Your Neighborhood Affecting Your Health?

Posted June 15, 2023 by in Health + Fitness

The role of community on one’s emotional well-being, sense of self, and overall mental health cannot be understated. Humans are social beings, after all, who rely on a sense of belonging given to them by the relationships they form and the groups they associate with, which play a crucial role in their self-perception. It is also a source of support, something to rely on when facing troubles, from needing a shoulder to cry on during emotionally turbulent times to physical assistance during an emergency. 

Neighborhoods can be leveraged to create centers of community. A strong bond with one’s neighborhood can ensure people have someone they can rely on who is easily accessible. The positive effects of this are evidenced by research, which shows that perceptions of neighborhood cohesiveness, i.e., how strongly one believes in their neighborhood being a community, can have documented benefits for health and can have these even in localities characterized by socio-economic adversity. This article will discuss the manifold ways one’s neighborhood can impact their health and how simple steps can make this impact positive.

The Impact of Neighborhood On Your Environment 

There is a long-established link between the condition of one’s environment and their overall health. Having access to safe drinking water and clean air and being safe from exposure to chemical toxins are all rights deemed necessary for individuals to live healthy lives. Some neighborhoods, especially those economically deprived, often face less-than-ideal environmental conditions. 

Here, a neighborhood with a strong sense of community can have a crucial impact. Neighborhood-run environmental initiatives, such as promoting recycling or carpooling, can play a role in mitigating the adverse effects of one’s environment. Further, the neighborhood as a collective can also advocate for change. They can demand a specialist, such as an MPH program with a concentration in Urban Planning, to focus on how the built environment of a neighborhood can be redesigned for better environmental outcomes. They can further advocate for policy change for more specific factors, such as a policy that aims to increase access to safe drinking water, lower the level of pollutants (especially significant in industrialized areas), or provide access to more environmentally friendly public transport. 

The Impact Of Neighborhood On Feeling Safe And Secure 

Feelings of safety and security are of crucial significance to mental health. Those who do not feel safe and secure in their homes have to contend with feelings of anxiety and stress, which are shown to manifest physiological symptoms as well and thus impact a person’s physical well-being alongside their mental health. It also significantly reduces a person’s mobility; those who do not feel safe in their communities will be hesitant when going out in public for fear of danger. Such fears can therefore be extremely restrictive, limiting one’s abilities to form social relationships and take advantage of economic opportunities. 

The impact of a neighborhood on feeling safe and secure is quite self-evident. If there is no strong sense of cohesion within a neighborhood, individuals are more likely to feel isolated in their security concerns. Where the neighborhood is characterized by a strong bond, safety and security, become a public issue. A neighborhood can set up a watch program, where residents take turns playing the role of a monitor, overseeing a neighborhood, and reporting suspicious activity to local authorities. There can be a general emergency number through which the neighborhood can be alerted of any emergency. In areas with high crime rates, the neighborhood can advocate for a greater police presence in their area. 

The Impact of Neighborhood On Dealing With Struggles 

An individual’s community plays a significant role in helping them cope with struggles and tragedies. It can be a source of emotional, physical, or even financial support, which is a source of guidance on how to navigate one’s course and a place of celebration and comfort once one has dealt with their problem. 

The neighborhood, especially one characterized by a strong bond, can help build their collective resilience to such struggles and adversities. It can be achieved through the creation of mutual support networks, which can be a source of assistance for individual members when any of them are struggling, whether that be financial resources during periods of unemployment or general support in the form of food, comfort, and presence when one is grieving loss. 

A well-connected community can also build plans that will prepare them for emergencies, whether that be a course of action to take in the event of a natural disaster or who to reach and call when there is a burglary. 

The Impact of Neighborhood On Forming Social Connections 

Intimate relationships with friends, romantic partners, or colleagues are crucial in determining one’s overall well-being and mental health. It is from such relationships that people derive their self-worth and life purpose. Neighbors are often ideal candidates for people to form strong social connections. Their proximity means that they are more accessible than friends and family that live a fair distance away. This proximity is also likely to result in neighbors frequenting similar locations, from a grocery store to do shopping, a cafe where one goes to socialize, or a club for recreational activities. In this way, even where social connections do not exist, the life of neighbors are already intertwined. Further, those living in a similar area code are likely to be of the same socio-economic demographic, which means that there will be a significant overlap in the kinds of problems these people face and their experiences. It means neighbors are easily accessible, have shared interests, and are relatable, all essential qualities for a good friendship. 

Individuals can foster these social relationships by making an active effort. It includes joining clubs or organizations within the community and working together to set up events that strengthen community bonds, like a neighborhood baseball league or a weekly bingo event. Neighbors can even advocate for the creation of more recreational and green spaces to foster these interactions and improve the social life of their community. 

Social connections within one’s community, once they are created, will only continue to grow. The ease with which neighbors can reach each other makes these relationships easy to maintain and compound upon. It can be a great source of emotional support and help create a strong sense of belonging, all essential for a healthy and happy life. 

An individual’s neighborhood is a space they interact with every day, and it is not surprising that the state of such a space can play a significant role in our overall health. Through bonds within our neighborhood, which help establish a sense of community, individuals can work towards ensuring the neighborhood’s impact on their health is predominantly positive

Read more: