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Get to know your neighbor — it's good for your health

Mr. Rogers "Won't you be my neighbor?" was right.
Mr. Rogers "Won't you be my neighbor?" was right.

Many of us wouldn't be able to recognize the people who live next door to us even if we tried. "A recent poll of 2,000 Britons found a third declaring they couldn’t pick their near neighbours out of a police lineup," Brian Bethune writes in his new article"The End of Neighbours."

Mining data from two new books — The Vanishing Neighbor by Marc Dunkelman and Susan Pinker's The Village Effect — Bethune finds that these un-neighborly environs are having a negative impact on our health and well-being:

"(Pinker) argues that humans need face-to-face contact, as they need air and water. We have evolved for it, to the extent that those surrounded by a tight-knit group of friends who regularly gather to eat-and, crucially, gossip-live an average of 15 years longer than loners. Quality face-to-face contact is essential for a social species, Pinker writes, citing research that shows it fortifies immune systems, calibrates hormones and increases chances of surviving heart attacks, strokes, AIDS and cancer.

Instead of working at home in the evenings, Pinker now participates in team swimming and aims to keep her social circle "as wide as possible," attending social events whenever she can. This is not only good for the body; it's also good for the body politic:

What could be called our social immune system, according to Dunkelman, is also not as robust as it was. The American researcher notes how his country was always organized from the bottom up, from township (or neighbourhood) to county to state to federation. But the moderating effects that mixing with neighbours of differing opinions once inspired, much like the health benefits born of daily contact with others, are crumbling, leading to inexorably more polarized politics.

Read the full piece here.