August 30th, 2014| Topic: RaMbLeS | 3


They are often bothersome. Neighbors. Loud noises. Wild partying. Crazy pets. And all manner of other inconsiderate activities directed against you and the rest of those on their block.

Maybe you’ve felt like moving. Or you’ve been praying they will move. Your blood pressure suffers. Your adrenaline is wasted. And you think you’ll die sooner because of their antics.

Well, it seems there’s a connection between your neighbor and your heart. At least that’s what a study published recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims.

Having good neighbors and feeling connected to others in the local community may help to curb an individual’s heart attack risk.”

Cardiac illnesses account for some 15 million deaths a year, it is estimated, some of them your neighbors’ fault!

In the past, the link between neighborhoods and health has been attributed to violence, noise, traffic, pollution, vandalism, drugs, and even to the density of fast-food restaurants in your neck of the woods.

But this study, conducted by a team from the University of Michigan sought to highlight the positive. They looked at over 5,000 people who had no history of heart problems. These folks (mainly married women) were monitored prospectively from 2006 to 2010 (148 of them had a heart attack in that period of time).

In 2006, the participants were asked to evaluate and score themselves on several criteria: the extent to which they felt being part of the neighborhood, whether they could rely on their neighbors in a crisis, if they could trust their neighbors, and whether their neighbors were friendly.

Then they were followed through 2010.

Bean counting in 2010 found that for every point awarded, an individual’s heart attack risk had reduced significantly. Those who got a full score (7 out of 7) had a 67% reduced heart attack risk over the four years of the study. The reduction of risk, the researchers said, was “approximately comparable to the reduced heart attack risk of a smoker vs. a non-smoker.” Wow! Your good neighbors are as good on the heart as ceasing smoking!

However, there was no accounting for family histories of heart attacks, though investigators did rule out other confounding factors like age, socioeconomic status, and other chronic diseases. In any case, the study was careful to warn:

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.”

Fine, but I know this is true. For the Bible tells me so:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself;
I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 19:18

According to the Gospels, Jesus explicitly repeated this Old Testament command seven times in the New Testament, once even adding a powerful story to the mandate, in response to a question: “Who is my neighbor?”

The University of Michigan team could not come up with a cause for this positive effect of good neighbors on one’s heart, but they pointed out that amicable neighborly relationships might have encouraged outdoor physical activities like walking and biking and stuff, that counter the artery-clogging effects of a shut-in, sedentary lifestyle.

They concluded:

If future research replicates these findings, more neighborhood-level public health approaches that target neighborhood social cohesion may be warranted.”


Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbor,
“Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,”
When you have it with you.
Do not devise harm against your neighbor,
While he lives securely beside you.
Proverbs 3:27–29

Be a good neighbor. Have a heart … and a healthy one!


  1. Caroline August 31, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    I wonder if we could count our church friends (the body of Christ) as “neighbors” since it is through the Church, I suspect, that we are to receive some of these positive benefits. So could we surmise, warring churches = more heartaches = less attraction of our secular neighbors; and loving churches = more heartful joy = more attraction to the Lord Jesus.

    Just wondering. Hi, Abe.

    • Abe Kuruvilla August 31, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Sounds good to me!

      I’m sure “neighbor” includes those outside the church too, i.e., anyone in need (as the Luke 10 parable teaches). But, of course, our closest “neighbors” are our fellow-believers, and perhaps even more, our own families.


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