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Do you trust your neighbors?

Posted by Rona Fischman September 1, 2011 01:56 PM

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A study by Eileen Bjornstrom, an assistant professor of sociology in the Missouri University College of Arts and Science shows that people who trust their neighbors report having better health.

Do you trust your neighbors? Do you know them? Do you interact with them? Would you prefer to have nothing to do with them?
Do you remember your neighbors from where you grew up? Did they influence you, for better or worse?

Guess who distrusts their neighbors more, people at the financial top or the financial bottom of a specific neighborhood?

Dr. Bjornstrom’s study showed that people toward the top of the financial level of a neighborhood were less likely to respond that “their neighbors can be trusted.” If one is near the top, trust goes down. Is it that if your relative position is higher than your neighbors you fear theft? Is it that people who have more than their neighbors are more aloof and independent by nature?
The study also showed a correlation between rating low on “neighbors can be trusted” and reporting good health. In this study, it seems that harboring distrust wears on an individual’s sense of well-being.

Do you intuitively agree with this or not?

Those of you who thought that poorer people in a neighborhood would trust less were wrong. For most people, it is easy to remember times when lack of money led to feeling lousy – emotionally and physically. So it is easy to guess that the poorer people in a given neighborhood would trust less and think they were less healthy. But, the study shows the opposite. The poorer people in neighborhoods thought themselves more secure and healthier. Seems that the notion of “keeping up with the Joneses” is less stressful than generally believed. Are the findings of this study consistent with Janis Joplin’s Bob Dylan's lyric from Like a Rolling Stone: “When you got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose”?

Bjornstrom examined the 2001 Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. She looked at where individuals fell economically, compared to their neighbors. Then she matched that information with participant’s responses about whether they trust their neighbors and their self-reporting on their own health. Bjornstrom’s study, “The Neighborhood Context of Relative Position, Trust and Self-Rated Health,” appears in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

How much do you think that having good neighbors benefits your sense of trust and your overall sense of well-being? How much do you think that your economic position in your neighborhood affects your attitude toward your neighbors and about your own health?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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