Strong Neighborhood Bonds Can Improve Health Outcomes — ScienceDaily

Strong neighborhood connections reduced the negative impact of living alone on the mortality rates of older Chinese Americans, according to Rutgers researchers.

The study, published in Social sciences and medicineexamined whether neighborhood cohesion among Chinese Americans living in the greater Chicago area would reduce the impact of living alone on premature death.

“Older Chinese Americans who lived alone in low-cohesion neighborhoods were much more likely to die earlier than those who lived alone in high-cohesion neighborhoods,” said Yanping Jiang, author of the study and a faculty member at the Center for Population Behavioral. Health at Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research.

In the United States, about 27 percent of people age 60 and older live alone, according to Pew Research Center. Living alone has been linked to several poor health outcomes, such as depression, cardiovascular disease, dementia, poor biological health and premature death. That’s why researchers felt it was important to identify which factors can help reduce the negative effects of living alone.

Using data from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago (PINE), the researchers examined whether perceptions of trust and closeness among neighbors influenced the risk of death in this population. They found that participants who lived alone and reported low levels of interaction or connection with their neighbors had a 48.5 percent higher risk of death than their peers who lived with others, while participants who lived alone and reported strong cohesion with their neighborhood had a had similar risk of death compared to those living with others.

With a better understanding of how different types of neighborhoods can affect individuals’ health, social policies and public health initiatives can be improved to create better neighborhood environments for promoting the health of older adults, researchers said.

“Our findings show the specific challenges faced by older adults living alone in communities with little interaction or connection,” said Jiang, who is an instructor in the Rutgers Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. “Strengthening neighborhood cohesion may be a promising way to reduce early mortality for older adults living alone.”

Researchers encourage future studies to explore other factors involved in neighborhoods and how they affect the health of older adults. In addition, the public can also play a role in improving the health of the community by reaching out and being kind to neighbors, especially those who live alone.

Co-authors of the study include Mengting Li of Renmin University of China and Tammy Chung of the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. Research was supported by the Rutgers-NYU Center for Asian Health Promotion and Equity and the National Institute on Aging.

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Material supplied by Rutgers University. Originally written by Nicole Swenarton. Note: Content is editable for style and length.

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