Aug 2, 2023 - Health

It's good for your health: Be a better neighbor

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A Mister Rogers-like approach to being a neighbor could be good for you.

Why it matters: The U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness, and studies suggest that cultivating better relationships with the people who live nearby is crucial for your happiness.

By the numbers: 17% of American adults said they felt lonely "a lot of the day yesterday" in an early 2023 Gallup survey. The portion of people who feel lonely is even higher if you look at specific categories, including:

  • Lower-income households (27%)
  • Young adults (24%)
  • People in large cities (20%)

What's happening: A lack of social connections is linked to poor mental health and premature death.

  • And a review of studies suggests that loneliness can be as bad for your health as cigarette smoking.
  • But living within a mile of a happy friend increases the likelihood that you'll be happy by 25%, according to a multi-generational study.

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans don't know most of their neighbors, Axios reported last year.

One way to truly know thy neighbor: Move next door to your loved ones.

  • Living close to friends or family is a "cheat code for living a happy life," says Phil Levin, founding team member of the car-free neighborhood Culdesac in Tempe, Arizona, and founder of co-living space Radish in Oakland, California.
  • With that in mind, on Wednesday Levin launched LiveNearFriends, a site that sends alerts for home listings available within a five-minute radius of your friends.

As for how to be a better neighbor now, artist Maceo Paisley — who studies human connection and is a major Mister Rogers fan — has tips.

  • Try small talk. Learning what someone's native language is and whether they work night shifts "allows us to know and care about each other," Paisley says.
  • Don't be transactional. Focus on your commitment to the whole neighborhood to avoid acting only in your own interest.
  • Learn the local history. Knowing the origins of street names and who settled your neighborhood helps you understand your place in its history and what you can contribute.

The bottom line: Knowing and caring for the people you live near is good for the neighborhood, and can be a boon for your health and happiness.

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