Neighbourliness reduces MI risk

Poor neighbourhood spirit increases a person’s risk of dying from a heart attack, suggests Swedish research.

The findings come from a study of 7,791 people aged 45 and over, who answered a postal questionnaire into neighbourhood factors, socioeconomic variables and personal health in 1999/2000.

Looking at national hospital and mortality figures from 2003, the researchers found that the rate of death from acute MI increased in neighbourhoods with the lowest perceived levels of cohesion and safety.

Specifically, the risk of fatal MI was around one-and-a-half times greater in those living in an area of low neighbourhood safety, compared with those in an area of high neighbourhood safety.

Poor neighbourhood cohesion had an even bigger effect, more than tripling the risk of fatal MI compared with living in an area with a good community spirit. This effect persisted even after adjustment for other neighbourhood factors.

This study highlights the importance of social interactions, specifically cohesion, in neighbourhoods for cardiovascular health.

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2008

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