Your neighborhood might cause you to age

By: Bel Marra Health | General Health | Friday, June 26, 2015 - 04:35 AM

neighborhood affects mental health and agingTake a moment to think about where you are currently dwelling. Is it a rural area with lots of green landscape and stress? Or is it a city dwelling with high-rise buildings and tons of traffic? Does your neighborhood have a high crime rate or is it more peaceful and calm? Why are we asking these questions? Well you may not think where you reside has an impact on your health, but it really does.

Research has now shown a close link between the neighborhood you live in and your aging. So if your goal is to live a long life you may want to consider moving…

Your neighborhood affects your health

anti agingPublished on PLOS One, the new findings suggest the neighborhood someone lives in has an impact on their health. More precisely it speeds up the aging process. The research team at the University of Pittsburg School of Nursing focused on examining telomeres – stretches in DNA that determine aging.Aging is a result of telomeres becoming too short – they shorten each time a cell divides and cannot become copied. Shortening of telomeres can speed up with the onset of stress or depression.

Researchers examined the telomeres of 2,902 Dutch people. These individuals were part of a Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. They had to report on their neighborhoods in context of fear of crime, noise levels and perceived neighborhood disorder.Researchers noticed the shortening of telomeres was more in those who had higher stress and greater perceived danger from their neighborhood. Furthermore, the length of their telomeres showed that between the group of high-stress and those who felt safe in their neighborhoods there was a chronological age disparity of 12 years. This means that although the participants were close in age, those faced with political, socio-economical and emotional stressors aged much quicker.

Your neighborhood’s impact on mental health

neighborhood impacts mental healthAs shown by the new research, our neighborhoods can take a toll on how we age but more so they can impact our mental health as well.

The volunteers in the new study revealed their level of stress and anxiety while living in their neighborhoods. There are many factors which come into play which can contribute to this.

Some contributing factors to poor mental health in neighborhoods are:

  • High crime rate
  • Poverty
  • Environment: Air pollution and water contamination
  • Lack of green spaces
  • Housing cost, quality and security.

These factors all play a role in affecting one’s mental health. When these stressors grow those living in the community experience higher levels of mental illness, including depression and anxiety.

So if you didn’t think your neighborhood could impact your health, think again. Where you reside plays a large role in mental and physical wellbeing. So how do we combat poor health in our neighborhoods?

Improving health by improving neighborhoods

Each neighborhood has its own unique troubles and stressors. It is up to the governing bodies to make policies and create change to promote the overall health of the community.

In order to create change the stressors must first be recognized. For example, if people in the community feel unsafe due to rates of crime there is a strong need for more policing. If people are unwell because the environment is a concrete jungle, with smog and poor water quality, changes to the environment must be made.

A neighborhood is only as strong as those living in it and so it’s the responsibility of the governments to make their people feel safe and ensure they are taken care of. By creating change and implementing policies that benefit the community, those living in it will become healthier.

In the meantime, if you can’t change your neighborhood still try to make conscious efforts to support your own health.

Eat as well as possible, go visit green spaces where the noise level is lower; try to exercise as much as you can and rather than isolate yourself attempt to make connections within your neighborhood. These are just some essential tips to healthy living that occur just about anywhere.

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