Where do you live, who are your neighbors, what’s your nearest health facility, how do you access essential services? These are some questions we always have to answer before settling in an area. It is always important to live in a comfortable, secure, and happy place, but the cost of living is always the constant factor.
The neighborhood is the area that surrounds your home, including the people who live in the area. Your neighborhood characteristics can influence your physiological, psychological, and behavioral health. Community social interaction through direct contact, social media, and group organizations are chains linking environmental and built characteristics of a neighborhood and the individual health characteristics. Misinformation from the surrounding people can fuel denialism and conspiracies that discredit good health practices, scientific knowledge and motivate non-adherence to good health habits.
Your neighborhoods have an impact on your mental and physical health and well-being. Where you live may influence your behavior on adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors, such as smoking, physical activity, and alcohol consumption. Neighborhood characteristics such as degree of urbanization, public and open space, resources and facilities, green and blue space, environmental noise, air pollution, social capital, crime and violence, socioeconomic status, stability of the neighborhood, and ethnic composition may influence your mental and physical health needs. For example, people living in low socioeconomic status in ghettos and slums have higher rates of infection spread and unhealthy dietary patterns due to lack of adequate healthcare services and recommended nutrition.
Estates where children live, play and go to school impact their mental and physical health. The people children interact with daily help in decision-making which can influence their health behaviors. Children usually learn from their family, friends, teachers, and people they interact with daily, exposing children to alcoholics, drug abusers, smokers, and prostitutes can influence their health behaviors leading to the risk of diseases or even death. An untidy residential area, with high immorality and violence rates, are risk factors that can influence the development of substance use disorder and other comorbid psychopathology in children.
Your physical health can be affected by your neighborhood characteristics directly depending on the duration of the stay. The longer you stay, the greater the effect on your health. When choosing a home, you should ensure basic physiological needs such as air, water, food, shelter, and security are well maintained and safe for healthy living. Living near a dumpsite or a factory with high air pollution, sewage and drainage routes with dirty water, violent neighborhood, or noisy places can result in injuries, diseases, and deaths.
The people and environment around you are the pillars of social support and social connections. The physical environment of your neighborhood such as the quality of the built environment, the presence of traffic, noise, or a lack of resources, transportation difficulties, and lack of adequate essential services can lead to depression and other health and mental health problems. In high crime rates areas, the fear of crime and lack of safety can lead to stress, which can negatively impact your mental health. Community social support in dealing with stressful life events on depression and other mental health problems through emotional and social support help improve individual health.
Our daily social interaction is critical in defining our behavioral health. If you live in the proximity of tobacco, alcohol, and fast-food sales points, you might end up using the same products or even being addicted to the behavior. Social norms and role models influence individual health-related behaviors. Adoption and execution of behaviors from the internal, personal, social, community, and structural factors may influence the expected costs and benefits of a particular behavior, for example, quitting smoking or avoiding alcohol abuse on an individual. People living in urban areas with high numbers of smokers, alcoholics, and drug abusers are likely to be influenced into drugs than those living in well-monitored and restrictive areas.
The level of social capital, including social norms and values in a neighborhood, may motivate people to seek out and use preventive healthcare. Your neighborhood behavioral patterns, collective attitudes, and individual health beliefs may influence your behaviors and attitude towards health. Areas where the people do not adhere to effective disease mitigation strategies, for example, condoms in preventing HIV and wearing masks for COVID-19 have a high infection spread and increased death.
When choosing where to live, either in urban or rural areas, before or after retirement, we should prioritize our comfort, convenience, individual autonomy, and public health impact on our health.