People in close-knit neighborhoods feel more positive

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Living in a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood can take a toll on mental health. However, feeling a close connection to neighbors may offset some of those negative effects, a new study finds.

People in close-knit neighborhoods feel more positive

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, involved a longitudinal multilevel analysis using data from the Caerphilly Health and Social Needs Cohort Study, a community study of health inequality set in Caerphilly county borough, South Wales.

Living in the most deprived neighborhoods was associated with a decline in mental health, after taking into account individual socioeconomic risk factors and transitions in life events, such as changes in employment status.

The effect of worsening mental health over time was, however, significantly reduced in highly close-knit neighborhoods.

“A possible explanation for the findings is that high levels of neighborhood social togetherness based on friendships, visiting, and borrowing and exchange of favors with neighbors may offset the detrimental effects of social disadvantage by facilitating access to networks and services that influence health, and social and emotional support,” says lead researcher David Fone, a professor in the School of Medicine at Cardiff University.

“These mechanisms suggest that interventions that help to facilitate social interaction and exchange may increase levels of social togetherness in deprived neighborhoods and reduce the levels of mental health inequality in the population.”

The implications of the study are potentially far reaching, Fone says.

Policies and interventions to reduce mental health inequalities across the socioeconomic gradient should recognize the importance of social context and should include components that operate not only for individuals but also at the neighborhood level.

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