News - September 9, 2010

Neighbours keep elderly healthy

Good neighbours are apparently important for the health of the elderly, according to a study involving 25,000 elderly people.

Epidemiologist Croezen examined the link between social contacts and the health of the elderly. To do this, she used data from almost twenty five thousand elderly people (65+) living independently within the purview of the Municipal and Regional Health Service (GGD) in the Gelre-Ijssel region.
These elderly people are noticeably much healthier when they have many social contacts. The big surprise lies in the kind of contacts. Neighbours are number one on the list. 'There is a strong link between contact with neighbours and good health', Croezen puts this scientifically. After neighbours, friends are next in importance, while contact with family members does not seem to have any visible effect on health. As such, Croezen has found scientific evidence for the saying 'a good neighbour is better than a faraway friend'.
Croezen also looked into the effects of social support in the long run by referring to a long term study being carried out among adults in Doetinchem by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). This study also attests to the positive effects of social contacts on health. People with a very active social life are less lonely, have a better physical condition and healthier. They even live longer; the death rate of elderly people without a social network is almost twice as high as that of those who have friends and acquaintances to fall back on.