Natural Element: The Best Neighborhoods
There's more to finding a home than finding a house.
By Jessica Wapner published November 1, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
The neighborhood in which we live can influence all aspects of our lives: physical health, stress levels, happiness, the well-being of our children. What are the key features to look for when choosing a new neighborhood? A host of scientific studies points the way home.
Social cohesion is a crucial factor in any neighborhood. Do people know one another's names? Is there an active community center? Are there summer street festivals? Studies show that involvement in community activities is associated with fewer behavioral problems among young children. And low social cohesion is associated with both asthma and hypertension.
The built environment can greatly affect both physical and mental health. Children with easy access to sidewalks, playgrounds, and fields tend to be more active and physically fit. Equally important is having places to go. People walk more when there are commercial establishments nearby. If you're planning a move, look for corner stores or other places you'd like to pop into during an afternoon or evening stroll.
A neighborhood's attractiveness is also of supreme importance. Studies confirm that we're more likely to engage in recreational activities when our surroundings are appealing. An aesthetically pleasing environment also reduces stress, so keep an eye out for clean streets and well-maintained buildings.
Living close to nature has all kinds of benefits. The presence of trees is associated with lower rates of domestic violence, other crime, asthma, and stress. Exposure to green spaces also diminishes symptoms of ADHD among children and improves self-discipline and concentration among young girls.