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Friendliness good for heart - study

Tuesday August 19th, 2014

Living in a friendly neighbourhood may have massive benefits for helping to prevent heart attacks, researchers say today.

Researchers said people in the least friendly neighbourhoods suffered twice the risk of heart attack as those in the friendliest - even allowing for factors such as lifestyle and educational attainment.

The US study asked more than 5,000 people to rate their neighbourhoods according to whether they felt their neighbours would help them in a time of difficulty or if they trusted people in the area.

This was used to put neighbourhoods on a seven-point scale of friendliness.

Over the four years of the study some 148 people had a heart attack.

The researchers said each point reduction in friendliness was linked to a 17% reduced risk of heart attack.

Researcher Eric Kim, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said: “Perceived neighbourhood social cohesion could be a type of social support that is available in the neighbourhood social environment outside the realm of family and friends."

The British Heart Foundation said the research had important limitations.

But Julie Ward, from the foundation, added: “It’s not just diet and exercise which can influence our heart health, even the physical environment and communities we live in can play a significant part.

“We know, for example, that living in poor housing, in a deprived neighbourhood with a lack of green open spaces can have a negative impact on our health.

“This study goes a step further showing the reverse could be true - that living in a community with good neighbours that look out for and support you could have a positive effect by reducing your risk of a heart attack."

Perceived neighbourhood social cohesion and myocardial infarction Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 19 August 2014; doi 10.1136/jech-2014-204009 [abstract]

Tags: General Health | Heart Health | North America | UK News

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