Health

Sociable neighbours raise stroke survival odds

Seniors able to count on their neighbours for help and conversation have better odds of surviving a stroke than those living in less sociable neighbourhoods, according to a new U.S. study.

Seniors able to count on their neighbours for help and conversation have better odds of surviving a stroke than those living in less sociable neighbourhoods, according to a new U.S. study.

Social isolation is unhealthy on many levels, said study author Cari Jo Clark, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

What's unique about the study in Thursday's online issue of the journal Stroke is that it looked at social cohesion at the neighbourhood level instead of just looking at individuals, she said.

The study involved 5,789 seniors, with an average age of 75, living in three neighbourhoods in Chicago.

During 11 years of followup, the investigators identified 186 stroke deaths and 701 first strokes.

Seniors questioned about neighbourhoods

The researchers interviewed participants about their communities, social interactions and signs of neighbourhood friendliness, such as how often they saw neighbours and friends talking in the yard or in the street — often, sometimes, rarely or never.

Seniors were also asked about how many neighbours they knew by name and whether they could call on them for help to borrow an egg or do some yardwork.

Stroke rates did not differ by neighbourhood, but the survival chances did.

Each single point increase on a six-question scoring system for neighbourhood "cohesion" was related to a .53 times higher chance of stroke survival, the researchers said.

"Given the importance of neighborhood environments to older individuals and the fact that the population is rapidly aging, the characteristics of neighborhoods are and will continue to be of relevance to public health policies," the study's authors concluded.

Clark said she thinks the findings indicate "that a positive neighborhood social environment is as important to senior health as stress or even crime, but it is really a complex issue."

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Program in Health Disparities Research, and the Applied Clinical Research Program at the University of Minnesota.

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