Jul 27, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The power of knowing your neighbors

Illustration of two houses in a neighborhood connected by a dotted heart.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A majority of Americans don't know most of their neighbors — and they barely talk to the ones they do know.

Why it matters: Strong neighborhoods boost the health, happiness, and longevity of their residents. But over the last several decades, our connections with our neighbors have been fraying.

What's happening: We're leaving our homes with our screens in our hands. The pandemic made us even less likely than we were before to stop and chat with new folks.

  • As a result, most of the people living around us are strangers.

By the numbers:

  • 57% of Americans say they know only some or none of their neighbors, according to a Pew Research Center survey. That share climbs up to 72% among 30- to 49-year-olds and 78% among 18- to 29-year-olds.
  • 58% say they know their neighbors but don't spend time chatting or hanging out with them.

The stakes: The benefits of knowing thy neighbor abound.

  1. Lives saved: In well-connected neighborhoods, fewer lives are lost in tragedies, including natural disasters and mass shootings.
  2. Happier aging: Older adults who know their neighbors report a far higher sense of psychological wellbeing.
  3. Safer streets: Tight-knit neighborhoods have lower rates of gun violence.
  4. Boosted wellbeing: People who know their neighbors are generally cheerier, healthier, and spend more time outside.

💡 Between the lines: Even in the age of dating apps, texting, and social media, most people get to know their neighbors in person.

  • We're twice as likely to chat with neighbors in person than online, per Pew.

The bottom line: Step outside and start a conversation — in the garden or in the mailroom. Befriending your neighbors is good for you.

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