Adults who live in walkable neighborhoods are more likely to interact with their neighbors and have a stronger sense of community than people who live in car-dependent communities, according to a report by the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at University of California San Diego.
Walkable neighborhoods provide opportunities for people to interact, and this is an important factor fostering health and wellness. In May, a U.S. Surgeon General Advisory noted that loneliness and isolation can lead to a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, a 50% increased risk of developing dementia among older adults, and increased risk of premature death by more than 60%.
The Surgeon General recommended strengthening social infrastructure by designing environments that promote connection. Walkable neighborhoods promote social interactions by encouraging walking for leisure or transportation to school, work, and shopping. People create and strengthen social connections as they encounter one another during these activities.
“Promoting social interaction is an important public health goal. Understanding the role of neighborhood design bolsters our ability to advocate for the health of our communities and the individuals who reside in them,” said Jacob R. Carson, one of the study’s researchers. “Fewer traffic incidents, increases in physical activity, and better neighborhood social health outcomes are just a few of the results of designing walkable neighborhoods that can enrich our lives.”