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Being Friends with Your Neighbor Could Lower Your Risk of Stroke

Update Date: Sep 17, 2013 02:58 PM EDT

The old saying, "love thy neighbor" teaches people to be friendly with one another. Even though that phrase is old, the concept has continued to be preached within communities. Now, in a new study, researchers have found evidence that loving your neighbor could actually provide some health benefits. According to the researchers, for adults over the age of 50, being friendly with one's neighbor could reduce one's risk of a stroke.

For this study, the research team from the University of Michigan examined data on 6,740 seniors over the age of 50. The group was considered to be nationally representative. The participants were asked how much they trusted their neighbors. They were also required to indicate whether or not they had suffered from a stroke before. Of the sample set, 265 of the adults had a stroke during the four-year follow up portion of the study. 46 of the strokes were fatal and 219 of them were not. Other data included any chronic illnesses, such as hypertension or diabetes, and psychological factors.

The researchers discovered that when adults rated their level of trust for their neighbor as high, their risk of suffering from a stroke was reduced. Even though the finding does not prove a cause and effect relationship, the team calculated that trusting one's neighbor could reduce risk of stroke up to 48 percent. The researchers reasoned that trusting one's neighbor could be tied to feeling connected with the community where social support can help deter negative psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety.

"Studies in the past have typically looked at a neighborhood's physical environment and its association with health.... We looked at the social environment," doctoral study at the U-M Department of Psychology and study's lead investigator, Eric Kim said according to Medical Xpress. "If observational studies repeatedly find an association with neighborhood social cohesion and better health, randomized controlled trials - which may eventually lead to public-health type interventions - may be in order."

The study did not account for variables, such as ethnicity or family history of stroke. The study was published in Social Science & Medicine.

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